Forgiveness isn’t for the weak-kneed or the faint-hearted.
The religion I grew up with taught me to be suspicious of people who were different from me; to approach with caution people who cussed, drank, and had tattoos. I always felt sorry for those people when they’d show up at my church. It was as if they had some kind of disease that made people treat them with fake smiles in public and talk about them with frowns when they weren’t around. These different people always seemed tired; like carrying around their baggage and everyone’s judgment was getting to be too much.
For us, it was easier to smile first and judge later than to believe in someone’s potential who had none.
Some of the tired ones hung quietly around, but most usually left, generally without much fanfare or drama. They just kind of disappeared; leaving most of us to assume that they had gone back to their old ways and their old habits, just like we thought they would. We were so right and proud of ourselves; but never boastful, for that would be wrong.
But I think that maybe Jesus followed them.
Maybe we failed to understand what Jesus was begging us to see. He wasn’t interested in building our churches. He was emerging a kingdom out of the chaos of a world falling apart. Maybe we were too distracted with our Sunday schools and potlucks to notice. It’s not that we were bad people, it’s just that we were busy people.
Jesus has been building a kingdom from our leftovers this whole time, right under our noses.
It’s an impractical kingdom of unlimited chances. A new place where dead people are alive, and old people are young. A place where undervalued people are the most important ones in our midst. It’s an unshakable kingdom where the defeated walk in the victory parade and sit at the banquet table with the King.
Here, history doesn’t get to define the future. People are liberated from their mistakes and regrets; not in a fashionable, platitude, or obtuse kind of way, but in a way that can only be described as brave, specific, and grace-filled. They are given permission to move on to better things. Here, in this roles-reversed kingdom, forgiveness is not earned – it is accepted. Again, and again, and again, and again ….
It’s a kingdom that gives out too many chances.
This is good news for those of us with a track record of mishaps, failures, and regrets. The gates of the kingdom are not closed. God has not given up. You’re not relegated to live in hell, but invited to overcome it. You are asked to become one of the brave ones, to accept and extend forgiveness and grace like it’s free.
Maybe you need to hear it. Forgiveness is yours. Again and again.
I’m not talking about the kind of forgiveness only found at invitation songs, sinners’ prayers, and front row pews. I’m talking about the kind of forgiveness that is bold, brave, and dismantling. It’s the kind of forgiveness that wakes you up to a new way of being alive. It’s about discovering the truth that better things are not only possible, but are on their way; about reminding each other that tomorrow will be more adventurous and accomplished.
When we are brave enough to forgive relentlessly, tomorrow comes sooner.
Comment Question: Do you have a brave example of forgiveness? Share it!