So far we’ve learned two things: that harm done to others is equally harm done to God, and that forgiveness comes at a cost to the one who forgives. A straight-forward implication of those two realities is that God’s forgiveness of us comes at a cost to God.
When Jesus, during His earthly ministry, forgave sins, it was not simply a matter of saying the words I forgive you or Your sins are forgiven. He was not simply, so to say, waving a heavenly wand and making the cost disappear. Acting with the authority of God, He was assuming the cost of the harm done, not to the human victim, but to God Himself.
Although we will return to this later, we can say now that Jesus, in forgiving sins for individuals during His earthly ministry, was doing what later He would do on the cross for all humankind, for all eternity. But before we venture into the regions of that great revelation and mystery, we’ll look first at the ways in which forgiveness lies at the very heart of what it is follow the way of Christ, to lead a Christian life.
There are two such ways. One is connected with the responsibilities of the Christians life, and the second with the blessings of the Christian life.
We begin with the responsibilities of Christian living.
It’s very important to realize that being a Christian in the full bodied-sense means assuming responsibility as well as receiving benefits. In one way, this seems noncontroversial, doesn’t it? It would be hard to find professing Christians who won’t at least give lip service to the responsibilities we have of being merciful, generous, helpful and kind, to refrain from certain kinds of activities, to contribute to the promulgation of the faith, to represent Christ as faithfully as we can among those who constitute our neighbors.
And that’s all well and good. But lying much deeper than these, lying in fact at the root of our faith, is the responsibility to forgive.
And why is that? Why does it lie at the root, at the foundation of our faith?
Because it is God’s chosen, and only, means of spreading the dominion of His love.