Faith Journey 7: Son, I Forgive

Sometimes I need to be reminded that God has forgiven me. It’s something that I feel I need to come back to again and again. Even although I have been a Christian for most of my life, and have been training for full-time ministry over the last seven years, I still need reminded that God has actually forgiven me through Jesus Christ.

This was my “take home” message from my last session of Spiritual Accompaniment. During this session, I participated in a prayer exercise called Lectio Divina. I have found this exercise useful, and have used it many times before. The pattern we used on this occasion was as follows:

Lectio Divina (Praying the Scriptures)
Lectio Divina is a slow reading of a short passage of Scirpture, in the faith that it will somehow transform. It is an ancient way of praying. Many have had the experience of words ‘leaping off a page’ and its that experience, quiet or dramatic, which lies behind Lectio Divina.

The Four Stages

  1. Lectio: Read the passage slowly, perhaps several times. Is there a  word or phrase which strikes you? It may be encouraging, comforting, challenging. 
  2. Meditatio: Stay with the word or phrase and repeat it to yourself several times, letting it sink into you. Take some time to ponder and consider it. If you wish, write down your thoughts.
  3. Oratio (Prayer): Speak to God about where your thoughts have taken you and include some time of silence and stillness.
  4. Contemplation: This is a time of quiet being with God and often the hardest for us in the West. Use your breath to still yourself, repeat your word or phrase and wait.

If nothing strikes you, talk to God about what that nothing is like and what that nothing feels like for you.

The stages may well blend into one another as you practice this way of prayer. The Psalms or favourite texts from the Bible are a good starting point.

The passage we used on this occasion was Mark 2: 1-12. This is a fairly familiar passage, where Jesus heals a paralysed man after his friends lower him through the roof of a house. Because it is such a familiar passage, we used the Message paraphrase of the Bible, because this would force us to pay more attention to the words of the story.

The words which really stood out for my on this occasion were, “Son, I forgive your sins.”

In more traditional Bible translations, these words would read, “Your sins are forgiven”. When I read, “Son, I forgive your sins”, it made things seem more personal.

This phrase stood out to me in a few different ways, which I’d like to share with you. First, I read, “Son”. Jesus was addressing me personally, as His son. As I read this passage, the image that came to mind was the Lord of the universe, in human form, addressing me! I don’t deserve that…and yet, here is Jesus, calling me “Son”.

Next, I read, “Son, I forgive”. This tells me something about Jesus’ identity. This says something about why Jesus comes to me. He comes to forgive.

Finally, “Son, I forgive your sin”. This was the reminder I needed. Even although I am training for ministry, and have been a Christian for years, I still need reminded that Jesus actually forgives my sin when I am sorry.

It is easy to hold on to guilt and remorse for things I’ve done wrong. I am grateful for the reminder that Jesus has granted my forgiveness for my sin, and restored my relationship with God. What a source of comfort and hope this is!!

Christianity 101: What’s It All About?

This mini-series of posts will run alongside the two main series I’m currently writing. I wanted to do something short and snappy, and which gets to the heart of what Christianity is all about. I believe the Christian faith offers something unique, and I want to show how it can impact our lives and our world.

I’ve called this series “Christianity 101” because I want to explain what the Christian faith stands for, and show the difference it can make to people’s lives.

So; What’s It All About?
The answer to this question can be summed up as follows:

bridge-card

When God first made humans, we were meant to relate to Him as our creator. Unfortunately, humanity put its own selfish desires before our love of God, and we therefore rejected Him. This is called sin. Sin separates us from God. There is nothing we can do to bridge that gap.

This separation from God has caused all kinds of problems. The most serious is death, which was something we were never supposed to experience.

God did not want to leave things this way; so He came into our world as Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ life, we learn about the way we are supposed to live. Through Jesus’ death, the gap between us and God is closed, as Jesus took the punishment for our sin. Because Jesus took our punishment, God is able to justly forgive us. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we are promised new life beyond death, where we will live as God intended. This is the heart of the Christian faith: through Jesus, we are reconciled to God.

The way this impacts our world is varied, and I hope to explore some of these throughout this series. If there are things you want to know more about, or topics you think I should tackle in this short series, please get in touch: I’m always happy to receive ideas!

Whatever topics are explored in this series, they have their foundation in the fact that Christians believe that through Jesus human being are brought back to God, and are enabled to live in the way He intended all along. The following picture suggests some Bible passages, which could help you explore this further:

Love the Sin, Hate the Sinner

Yes, you did read that correctly.

And yes: it is wrong.

A friend recently sent me an article. It told the story of someone who was told categorically that God, “hates the sin, but loves the sinner”. The article went on to describe how the person reacted to this kind of attitude (it did not end positively, to say the least). 

This article challenged me. Is this really a good thing for Christians to say to people? Does God love sin and hate sinners? Is this really what Christianity is all about…or does this simple phrase actually miss something so important that it has become destructive?

1. What do people hear?
One of my favourite books from childhood was the BFG by Roald Dahl. The main character in this story, the “Big Friendly Giant” speaks in rather broken and simple English, a point picked up by the other main character; a young girl named Sofie. In respose, the BFG announces, “What I means and what I say is two different things”.

Sometimes what we mean and what we say are different. Worse still, what we mean, what we say, and what another person HEARS can all be completely different!

If we say, “I love you, but I hate your sin”, what do you think the other person hears?

I can almost guarantee they won’t hear anything about love. In fact, they are likely to hear “I hate you and your sin”. Worse still, because we do not live perfect lives ourselves, what’s actually heard it, “I hate you, but I love sin (because I sin all the time!)”.

If you are a Christian, then you have accepted the fullness of Christ as your saviour. As such, nothing short of Christ-like living will do! We need other to keep us accountable for how we live, to make sure we are living in accordance with the Christian faith. We sometimes need to hold others accountable for how they live…

…but this is not the way to go about it!

2. Does God really “love the sinner and hate the sin”?
Let’s look at what we’re actually saying a little more closely.

What is sin? Sin is any word, action or thought which separates us from God. Sin is choosing our ways over God’s ways. Sin is putting ourselves in the place of priority, a place which rightly belongs to God.

Does God hate sin? Of course He does! God wants a relationship with us in the way a loving father wants to relate to his own child. So, it makes sense that God would hate anything which gets in the way of this relationship.

Does God still love us, even although we are sinners. Well, consider this verse:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

So, yes: God does hate sin, and yes: God does love sinners!

BUT…it’s actually only half of the story…

3. “For God so loved…”
What’s the full story? Look again at Romans 5, but with a few more verses included:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:8-11 ESV)

If you want to really share the Gospel with someone, or if you really want to challenge someone about behaviour which does not reflect their faith in Christ, don’t tell them God hates their sin but loves them as a sinner. Tell them God hates sin, but loves them so much that He has done something about their sin. We are reconciled to God by Jesus.

Conclusions
How best to conclude? Well…pictures speak much louder than words, so… enjoy!

Remember, God hates sin, but loved us so much that He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him, by Jesus Christ. Instead of telling people that, “God loves sinners but hates sin”, tell them this instead.

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.