Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
The forgiveness which Christians experience in Christ is completely different from anything we find anywhere else. The apostle Paul describes it for us in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. What is the judgment of Jesus about Paul? He has called Paul “faithful.” He is of use in service to God, as a faithful servant. This is not of Paul’s doing. In the past, Paul was shown to be unfaithful, a blasphemer, persecutor, and an opponent of God. This was all forgiven in Jesus’ grace.
When Paul was forgiven, he was also changed. He received mercy and forgiveness, but his life was not the same as it was before. The patience of Jesus was now on display in Paul.
If we compare the forgiveness and grace of God shown toward Paul to the kind of treatment given by humans to humans, we easily see tremendous differences. On one level, people will speak of forgiveness and use it as an excuse for a lack of life change. They will say they have been forgiven, or deserve to be forgiven, and therefore they make no attempt to do anything differently. True, God is able to forgive any sort of sin. His grace is abundant, more so than ours. But at the same time, when God’s Word has condemned a course of action, his forgiveness is not to be used as an excuse for continuing flagrantly in that action, be it adultery, murder, theft, or covetousness. God’s forgiveness is a strong motivator for life change. Human concepts of forgiveness may not understand the strength of God’s commands or the gravity of sin.
Another way God’s forgiveness differs from human forgiveness is that, to be quite blunt, humans almost never grant forgiveness that is underserved. For that matter, humans almost never grant even deserved forgiveness. When popular culture observes a sin or perceived sin (however they define sin) in the past, they will call the alleged sinner to account. Retribution must be exacted, and the offender remains an offender forever. There is no restoration. If you, or the people group you belong to, have been declared guilty of some offense, you are condemned to suffer. That’s where it seems to end.
God’s great mercy not only forgave Paul of his sin and shame, it restored him and placed him in a position of service and even honor. God in Christ does the very same thing for every Christian. By God’s grace, through faith, we are declared to be good and faithful servants who are pleasing to God and free from our past sins. This is to God’s glory and to our benefit.
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