Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Exec. Director
If someone once told you that becoming a Christian would lead to an easy life, they lied. To be sure, the access point of faith is simple… it takes belief and trust. And then you begin to live the life. That’s where things start to become a little more difficult. It’s like standing on the bank of a rushing, white-water river. Taking the plunge is easy. You just step off the muddy bank and splash into the water. But within seconds you are caught in the churning, twisting, relentless flow. Faith is like that. The invitation to walk with Jesus is not an invitation to an easy stroll. It is a call to follow a Savior down a path that will radically alter your life, shift your priorities, make you see the world with different eyes, and give away your heart in ways you never dreamed possible.
The Gospel message makes its demands of us. We are commanded to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, uplift the downtrodden, give sight to the blind, preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives. It’s a call to see the world through the eyes of a compassionate Savior who cares about everyone, who values each life, who longs for brokenness to be mended, and who gives away His life so that we might know the joy of being included in God’s family. It’s a call to turn the world upside down like the early disciples were once accused of doing (Acts 17:6). It’s a call to be different, to be radical, to be unstained by our culture, yet fully immersed in it. If you think you can follow Christ in the privacy of your prayer closest and never attempt to change the world around you, then you are sadly mistaken. The Gospel demands that we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13). The Gospel demands movement, involvement, investment, and sacrifice. New Testament writer James went so far as to say that unless our faith produces results in the lives of others, it’s worthless (James 2:14-26).
Perhaps the hardest demand of the Gospel is that of forgiveness. The world demands revenge, payback, an eye for an eye, whenever we have been wronged. But in contrast, Jesus said, “Forgive.” Forgiveness is not a denial of the pain and injury caused by someone’s anger or abuse… it is the offering of a gentle, healing grace even in the midst of such pain. I told you earlier, the Christian life is not easy. Jesus offered these words, “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). We are called to forgive friends when they have betrayed us, spouses when they have angered us, children when they have disobeyed us, merchants when they have exploited us, leaders when they have disappointed us, co-workers when they have backstabbed us, strangers when they have harmed us.
I have often thought that our forgiveness should be expressed verbally. As soon as someone says “I’m sorry,” we must respond by saying “You’re forgiven.” That’s how we want God to respond when we confess ours sins to Him. Why would He expect us to act any differently towards others? Brokenness remains whenever our forgiveness goes unspoken. Healing in relationships can only be completed when we verbally express our grace. It is not always sufficient to forgive someone in our hearts and minds without letting them know of our willingness to move forward. And by the way, if you are always waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry,” before you forgive them, you have missed part of the message of grace. We must forgive, even when others have sought no forgiveness from us, nor verbalized their sinfulness against us. It is the only way to live. And it’s hard sometimes.
I want to close this thought with some song lyrics. The song is called “Forgiveness,” and it is written and performed by Pat Terry and can be found on his album entitled, “Laugh for a Million Years.” Here are the lyrics…
“In that dark, swift river called love, down on the bottom so deep and cold,
There lies a healing stone, worn smooth by the river’s flow.
It’s a beautiful thing to behold. It took years for the river to make.
God even gave it a name… forgiveness.
If you swim that river of life, you’d better find it.
It will heal a lot of hurt along the way. It can take a grievous wound and bind it.
It can dry your tears and soothe away your pain… forgiveness.”
And you thought this was going to be easy…