For the last several months I have been drawn to a specific section of the liturgy we use on Sunday morning. I have found myself finding the Confession and Absolution to be especially profound, to the point that the words of that liturgy bounce around in my head even as we do communion. We are called to confess our sins, which we do, and then we are told that God forgives us. I find myself needing to hear that on a weekly basis.
You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven.
And it’s not necessarily because of some current sin, that I need to hear it. I find that lately, past stuff, particularly attitudes I had before I became a Christian keep coming up in my memory. And I don’t get it. I could understand guilt or shame because of stuff I’ve done since I’ve been a Christian, but it’s this ‘old man’ stuff that keeps rehashing in my head.
I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven.
At the same time, I just took a class on the Theology of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. As I write my review paper on Donald Gowan’s The Bible on Forgiveness, I am struck by how many times Exodus 34:6-7 are either quoted or alluded to in the Old Testament. God forgives. He is a God who acts and his action is forgiveness. And we see it into the New Testament. God creates a way for us to receive forgiveness through the reconciliation wrought by His Son.
The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
God forgives. God forgives. God forgives.
And I can’t help but wondering, in our debates about whether God is primarily holy or primarily love, if we’ve missed the point. I wonder if this tension that some people see between the God of wrath in the Old Testament and the God of love in the New Testament would be better reconciled if we focused instead on God’s action: God forgives. He forgives in the Old Testament. He forgives in the New Testament.
We’re forgiven. We’re forgiven. We’re forgiven.
I recently finished J.R. Daniel Kirk’s Jesus I Have Loved, but Paul? There, he writes of how the community of Christians is a community of forgiven people. A community that embodies forgiveness to each other and to the world, because God has forgiven us. Referring to the Lord’s Prayer, Dr. Kirk writes this:
“Wittingly or no, whenever we pray this prayer together in Christian communities we are inviting God to measure our own posture of forgiveness against his own character as a forgiving God. Even starker than mere comparison, however, is Jesus’ word of warning and promise. To a community that is to be defined as a forgiven people, Jesus proclaims that our ability to receive God’s forgiveness is contingent on our own ability to extend such forgiveness to others. (pg. 58)
We forgive. We forgive. We forgive.
And now it is Lent, a time of repentance and reflection. And I am overwhelmed by the reality that God forgives. It is that forgiveness that bends my knees, humbles me and draws me to repent. I repent because God’s gift of forgiveness is so huge, so powerful. And as I repent and pray and confess and worship, I am covered by and drowning in this reality:
God forgives. I’m forgiven. We’re forgiven. We forgive.