For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This is the time of year when we, as Christ followers, remember the three events which all happened within a few weeks of each other and which changed our world forever: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Pentecost. Within the Christian world, different groups have tended to focus more on one of these events or another. In my particular flavor of Christianity, we tend to focus more on the resurrection than on the other two; so much so, in fact, that I sometimes lose the practical significance of either the crucifixion or of Pentecost. This week, as an exercise to help me balance this, I have been thinking a lot about the crucifixion.
In The Gathering this past Sunday, I challenged everyone to consider their daily routine, their life and their world without the crucifixion. What would it look like? What would it be like? It made for some interesting discussion, as we each began to come to grips with what the crucifixion means to us individually.
So, I have also been asking the same question with regard to the entire church. What does the crucifixion mean for us corporately? What would “church” look like without it? For me (so far) the picture is both simple and scary: there would be little forgiveness and there would be little grace. I believe that because, over and over again, scripture draws a clear and convincing connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of each other. Don’t ask me to explain it theologically–I cannot–but I strongly suspect that the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 was intended to provide that explanation. Through the crucifixion, we have each been forgiven SO VERY MUCH. Who are we, then, to ever be unforgiving of a brother?
Establishing forgiveness is the very reason Christ came in the first place. Unconditional, unreasonable, unbelievable forgiveness is the very hallmark of this entire revolution we call Christianity. It is our mantra, i.e., the identifying characteristic by which Christ followers are known. The crucifixion gave us that…the resurrection did not and Pentecost did not (they gave us some other very important things).
So, when I read Christ’s words, “It is finished”, I can have confidence that, with the crucifixion, He really did accomplish the complete forgiveness of all sin which He set out to accomplish. There is no way I can enhance it and there is no way I can diminish it. Forgiveness really was accomplished once and for all with the crucifixion. And that single event ushered in the very forgiveness which we must extend to one another as well. They are inextricably intertwined. The church without the crucifixion is a church without forgiveness…any forgiveness at all…for anyone and by anyone…because our forgiveness of one another is absolutely connected to Christ’s forgiveness of us as accomplished on the cross.
I like that it is like that.
It is finished.