The Practice of Forgiveness

June 24, 2017

Luke 7:47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love”

The most difficult time of my life was also the most stretching/maturing/developing time of my life. It was when I was part of an unhealthy, independent church in L.A. called True Worship Christian Fellowship.

The church was so named because they (I should say “we” because I was part of it) believed they were true worshippers whereas others were not. Talk about pride and presumption!

But do you know that now there are over 30,000 Protestant denominations in the world? In America, especially, we are masters of breaking free of yokes (oppressive or otherwise) and making our own way. It’s in the fabric of our history and founding.

So, when we find fault or find ourselves in disagreements with others, we choose isolation, judgment, suspicion, and condemnation of those we disagree with. It is so much easier than talking it through, listening well, and extending grace. This tendency of ours is seen in churches, politics, and race relations. It is why Sunday mornings are still the most segregated hours of the week.

So as my soul languished in many ways at this church, a few important things developed anyhow. One was an understanding of what NOT to do as a pastor and church leader. The other was to grow, often painfully, in my knowledge and understanding of African-American culture. It paved the way to meet and marry Tracey Bucker in 17 years ago.

Much good can come of increasing our understanding of other races and cultures. For example, when was the last time you read a book by an author of the opposing political party? And tried to listen to the message without throwing the book down in disgust at the very sentence you disagreed with?

These are very helpful practices, but one practice helps more than any other…the practice of forgiveness.

When we understand the depth of our own forgiveness, we can love like the woman with the alabaster jar—Mary Magdalene—who “loved much because she was forgiven much”. It changes everything! I don’t need to fear other races or political parties or the future or _____ because “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

This is not a small task. It’s a huge one. But one possible to achieve in many ways. And we are especially poised to realize this at Light and Life Isla Vista because we are cognizant of our sin and need. Remember that song, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, by the Temptations? It’s much preferable to be a Mary Magdalene than a Pharisee. Can I get an Amen?

Our human nature dictates that if people look or act or believe differently than we do, we get uncomfortable and fearful because we can’t control them or their behavior or the outcomes. So how do we overcome this? Stanley Hauerwas (a professor at Duke) says, “This love that is characteristic of God’s kingdom is possible only for a forgiven people—a people who have learned not to fear one another…Only when my self—my character—has been formed by God’s love, do I know I have no reason to fear the other.”

None of our doctrines and definitions are flawlessly perfect. We see through a glass dimly. But if your heart declares Jesus is Lord, then we can walk together in fellowship! And the world needs to see that in us, now more than ever.

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