The Gospel Changes Everything (Pt. 5): Forgiving Others

We're in a series where we will see how the gospel of Jesus affects every area of our lives. Each post will look at how the truth of the gospel changes how we view a certain aspect of life and its implication in our lives.

I know for many Christians, the gospel is seen as the door one enters to get into Christianity. But once one is through that door (has become a Christian), they move on to bigger and better things. Things like inductive Bible studies, mission trips, apologetics, spiritual disciples, theological training, or fighting for social justice just to name a few.

Now to be very clear, all of these things described are great and should be valued by Christians. But the mindset of the gospel only being the door into Christianity is incorrect. As Pastor J.D. Greer says, "The not just the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity; it is the pool itself. It is not only the way we begin in Christ; it is the way we grow in Christ. All of the Christian life flows from the good news of what Jesus has done."

So our title of this blog series (The Gospel Changes Everything) means just that. The gospel is not only the way to salvation but it also changes everything in a Christians life. Everything. Not just an hour on Sunday. Everything. Not just where we go when we die. But everything. 

We've seen how it changes our identities, our view of humor, the way we find true joy, and how we view others who are different than us. Today we'll begin to unpack at how the gospel changes our view of forgiveness, how it allows us to actually forgive others. 

At the heart of the gospel is the news that humanity has rebelled and sinned against God. But he chose to forgive us through his son Jesus. This was embodied by Jesus himself as he hung bleeding out on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" he asked of those who were literally torturing and executing him.

Now through Jesus' death and resurrection, we can have redemption and the forgiveness of our sin. Just hours before his death, he told his disciples that when his blood would be poured out through his crucifixion, forgiveness of sin would be possible.

For the Christian, this has both eternal and immediate ramifications! Not only can we be forgiveness of our sins, reconciled to God, and promised eternal life, but this also allows us to truly forgive others who're sinned against us. The first recorded Christian to die (he too was murdered) couldn't help but respond in the same forgiving manner as his savior. He uttered these words as a mob crushed his body with rocks, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." 

We sure love it when we realize we can receive forgiveness for our deeply sinful hearts and dark past deeds. Yet when we've been sinned against, we often forget what we've been forgiven and want justice or even revenge. We want the oppressor to pay for what they did. We want the abuser to be hurt in return. But the gospel says that all sin (our own sin and the sin committed against us) is put on Jesus. HE received the punishment for the world's sin. God's justice was served on the cross. So we can know that the sin committed against us will not just be looked over.

Shane Claiborne reminds us, "the scandalous part of grace is that it is big enough to include both the oppressed and the oppressors. God is setting both groups free. That is good news indeed. That is the gospel." 

So Christians don't forgive others because that is what good Christians do. Christians forgive others because we've first been forgiven a debt of sin that we could never have repaid. Christians forgive because the same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus to forgive his executioners lives inside of us. IF we really do have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace" (Ephesians 1:7), then how can we not forgive others.  

God promises us that "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." And it is out of that forgiveness, because of that forgiveness, we can and must forgive others. Christians forgive others because in Christ, God has forgiven us