I met someone recently whose expertise came with a high monetary value. He was a plumber and he said that he wouldn’t fix my leak because if he did, he would have to put his name and license on it. What he meant was that, because of his expertise, his services would be expensive. He suggested that I could avoid the expense if I fixed it myself. He was right. And this illustrates a couple of problems we find in our Christian life as we journey together through the cross to the empty tomb.
The first problem is forgiveness. Carnegie Simpson phrases it this way: “Forgiveness is to man the plainest of duties; to God it is the profoundest of problems.” Put a different way, we put away the offenses or insults or wrongs done to us by others as just a part of daily life and relationships. It is normal and assumed. It’s how we get things done. For God in His majestic holiness, extending grace or favor toward mankind is another matter altogether. God must maintain who He is--wholly just--and yet at the same time deal with those who exert their God-given power to choose. John Stott says, “God must not only respect us as the responsible beings we are, but he must also respect himself as the holy God he is."
We are forgiven not because we are able to adequately placate God but because we have Another, the Author and Perfecter of our faith who was the Perfect Sacrifice on our behalf. Through Jesus, God has dealt with our sin without changing His character.
This brings up a second problem. What are we do with this forgiveness and grace we’ve been given? We are to extend it to others. CS Lewis addresses it this way:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
When we understand the value of God’s character of holiness and the grace that we’ve been given, we are able move out into our relationships with the same grace. It becomes part of our routine that is motivated and inspired by each other. The letter to the Hebrews encourages us to: “...stir up one another to love and good works” (10:24).
Anglican Reformer Thomas Cranmer once wrote, “faith does not lay dormant in the heart but it is fruitful in bearing good works.” My prayer for us this Lent is that we carry with us that forgiveness and grace we have received. As we do, may His value show through us, and not our own.