Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Have to WHAT?

Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins."

Let me just start off by saying this is not intended to debate whether our salvation is based on anything we can do. Our salvation is solely in what Christ already accomplished on the cross.

But whatever this verse means in terms of our salvation, it is perfectly clear that God's will for us includes forgiving others who sin against us. And it's clear that the stakes are very high if we do not.

How easy it is to hold a grudge against a co-worker whose words were insensitive. A child who failed to obey. A sibling who borrowed without asking. A customer who acted rudely. A gawker who chose to take pictures of wreckage rather than lend a hand. An accused murderer who took the life of his wife. Or of her own child. Or a terrorist who masterminded the death of thousands.

Jesus didn't specify that we must forgive those who sin against us in the little things, but hate those who commit ultimate acts of evil. Sin is sin. The consequences of sin vary greatly from a wounded pride to genocide, but the basis of sin is simple. It is the failure to know and seek God. The one true and living God. The one who is not created in our image, but in whose image we were created. At its core, sin is about setting myself above God and prioritizing my goals, desires, and plans above His.

Since His #1 goal is the redemption of mankind, so much so that He was willing for His Son to pay the ultimate price for that redemption on the cross, anything we do that hinders this goal is clearly sin. When we fail to forgive those who trespass against us, we push them further from the grace of God.

In light of the recent death of Usama Bin Laden, there were many who rejoiced at his death - and even celebrated the fact that he is now in Hell, forever separated from God. But God's Word says, (Ezekiel 33:11) "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'"

While the Old Testament is full of stories of God's people conquering and utterly annihilating unbelieving tribes, no where does it indicate that God rejoices over this. In fact, there are several examples where a messenger brings news of the death of a foe, expecting to be rewarded by the king, only to be killed. The death of the wicked is not a cause for celebration. It is a reminder that each of us, without Christ, would face the same future. Each of have sinned. Our sins have consequences, both here on earth and for eternity.

I thank our military personnel around the world for the work that they do every day to help keep us safe. I specifically thank the Navy Seals who risked their lives, and whose lives will forever be at risk because of their participation in bringing Bin Laden to justice. They have delivered the consequences of his actions that God determined.

As believers, our response to this should be gratitude to God for allowing justice to be done, somber reflection on our own need for forgiveness, and prayer that in God's amazing grace demonstrated through His followers, those who followed Bin Laden might turn and follow Jesus.