(59) the forgiveness of sins

When I find that I can own up to my sins, Christ’s truth has got through to me at last. When I have become concerned about my sins, Christ must be there and at work within me. Christ in me not only convinces me that I am in the wrong but enables me to admit it to others. He also makes me want to set things right. When I realize that Christ is moving there within me, I know that God has not cast me off entirely. He is not only judging me, he is saving me through Christ. God is not holding my sins against me. If he has not allowed my sins to stand between him and me, that must mean that he has forgiven me. Two people in each other’s arms are certainly not quarreling. Once I realize God has forgiven me, I must accept his forgiveness and forgive myself.

By the Spirit of Christ a new kind of living keeps on appearing in me. In the place of the old self-centered ways, Christ gives me his ways. For the old, he gives the new. This is for-giveness.

What is of Christ in me belongs to God forever. For the sake of what is Christlike in me, God puts up with the rest of my living. He accepts me and hopefully goes on working with me, even though he doesn’t approve of what I have been and done. This too is forgiveness of sins.

Maybe God can use even the bad scenes in my life, turning them somehow, someday, into some kind of good. Blotches on an artist’s canvas can often be worked usefully into the final painting. God may be able to resolve my awful discords into enriched harmonies. When an ugly rock is covered by white foam, rainbow spray, and sparkling reflections, it can become a thing of beauty. When my sins have been surrounded by the life of Christ, even the darker parts of my life may be transformed into an unexpected glory. This would indeed be a marvelous forgiveness of my sins.

As for the effects of my sins on other lives, God has put his church into the world to do what it can to repair that kind of damage. As the church helps those who are in distress because of other people’s sins, I see God‘: forgiveness at work, absorbing sin. The deadly force of every sin, whomever it affects throughout its career of misery, is ultimately spent on the suffering heart of God.

I believe in forgiving sins against myself. Otherwise I wouldn’t dare ask God in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive me in the same way I forgive others. My family must learn how to forgive sins against our family circle and accept the offenders, hoping all things for them in Christ. In the same way the church family has to learn to forgive members who have made trouble for the church family. This churchly forgiveness may be expressed by an official of the church in a special ceremony, but it is useless unless the other members open their hearts to the sinner who has been restored to the communion. But all sins against myself, against my family, against the church and all others, involve an element of sin against God. God alone can forgive the sin against God. God reaches out through his church, offering men his forgiveness through Christ. The church is, at its best, God’s forgiveness in search of those who need it.