FORGIVENESS AND THE CHURCH (Colossians 3:12-15)
Forgiveness is our theme this month. Today we touch on forgiveness and the church. You’ve probably heard of Tina Turner’s song, “What’s love got to do, got to do, with it?” In the same vein, someone might ask, “What’s the church got to do, got to do, with it?” I wouldn’t be surprised by such a question because we live in an individualistic age. Many people come to church with the mind-set of a moviegoer: we come to watch and then we go. We never really get involved. And if there’s a better movie somewhere, well, we can always go there next time around. But this “dating the church” mentality means you’ll never really understand and learn what forgiveness is all about because it is only by being deeply involved in the life of the church that one can truly understand and learn what forgiveness is all about. This is because the church is the one community above all others which has experienced the forgiveness of God and is therefore in a unique position to be the channel of God’s forgiveness to a world that desperately needs forgiveness, provided of course that the church lives up to its calling. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is primarily about the church, and in chapter 1 verse 7 he points out that in Jesus Christ the beloved we (i.e. the church) have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Others, however, do not share in this blessedness. In chapter 2 of Ephesians Paul says that those who are not in Christ Jesus are dead in trespasses and sins, are sons of disobedience and are by nature children of wrath. Those however who are in Christ Jesus have been reconciled to God by the blood of Christ. And in chapter 4 verse 32 he draws out the implications of this truth: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” To repeat: it is in the church, i.e. among the forgiven people of God, the community which has received forgiveness and is therefore mandated to practice forgiveness, that we ought to seek a true understanding of forgiveness and it is in committed participation in the life of the church, especially the local church where God has called us to serve, where we can be trained to practice Christian forgiveness.