“If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven- if there was anything to forgive- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
-2 Corinthians 2:10-11
As a Pastor, working in the church is difficult and sometimes ugly (can I get an Amen?). As church leaders, we get to experience some ugly situations that come about because of our brokenness and sin. While we like to think we have it all together in the church (with our plastic smiles as we shake hands before worship), I realize that each of our communities is a potential powder keg ready to explode if our brokenness goes unchecked. It is the same outside of the walls of the church where our relationships at home, at work, and in our schools feel the effect of sin everyday.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, is writing to the church at Corinth who has had to use church discipline on an individual(s). We’re not told what they did or why they did it. But what is clear is that person(s) has repented of whatever it is that caused grief within the community. Paul encourages the church to forgive and comfort those who repent- and to reaffirm their love for him (v.8). As the church forgives, Paul as their spiritual father, also forgives and extends the repentant grace and mercy.
Forgiveness is a choice that each of us has the ability to make when someone wrongs us. There are instances where we are able to forgive quickly, wanting to mend relationships that are meaningful to us. There are other times when a person hurts us so badly, that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful tool that we possess as Christians. It is not a weak “It’s cool, everything is ok.” Forgiveness calls us, and the wrongdoer, to name the sin/wrong done to us. It acknowledges that a relationship has been broken, that someone has been hurt, and that repentance is required. Forgiveness also gives us the opportunity to extend mercy and grace to someone who may not believe they worthy of it. The truth is, none of us are worthy of grace and mercy- but through Jesus.
This week is Holy Week- as we journey from the cheers of Palm Sunday, to the Cross of Good Friday, and finish with the celebration of Resurrection. Many of our churches will remember Jesus’ last night with his disciples tonight. I’m always struck by the grace and mercy that Jesus extends Judas in John 13. In John’s account he tells us that Jesus was aware of what Judas had done and still washed his feet. In Mark’s account of the last supper with his disciples, it is Judas who sits next to Jesus in the place of honor. Mercy and grace to the very person who was in process of betraying Jesus.
As we draw closer to the cross, where Jesus was broken and poured out for us- God’s love, mercy, and grace for us- sinners; who do we need to forgive? Who do we need to ask forgiveness of? Let us not give Satan a foothold because of our anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness- instead let us use the gift of forgiveness as a vehicle to reveal the love, grace, and mercy that God has for us and for the world. Amen.
Steve LaMotte (@steve_lamotte) is Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Dover, Delaware. He has been a speaker, teacher, worship leader, and dean at Delanco Camp. For Lent, he has chosen to abstain from watching The Bachelor and The Jersey Shore. Image credit: Matt Gruber, via CreationSwap.