“The church is full of hypocrites but there is always room for more!” is a slogan I have seen in front of churches at different times. I guess it is in reaction to the complaint that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. Whilst I know that there are times when I fail and that from time and time some Christians don’t live up to their profession, this has not been my usual experience. My experience has been of people knowing that they are far from perfect, who are constantly seeking God’s forgiveness and strength. Forgiveness for failure and strength for amendment of life.
When Jesus was hanging on the Cross He spoke those memorable words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. And these words were spoken about people who had deliberately ignored and misrepresented Him. Such is the nature of the Son of God, such is our need. Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian good news.
Everyone requires forgiveness from God. Like a lawn bowl we all have a bias away from God and like a lawn bowl we either fall short, go too far or move away from the target. Having found forgiveness from God through turning back to Him and trusting His Son, no Christian is able to then just do what they want.
Hypocrisy, that high handed taking forgiveness for granted, was loathed by Jesus but so too, was self-righteousness. Of course Christians continue to sin, since perfection will only be experienced in Heaven. But no Christian worth their salt will ever celebrate their sin, or be complacent about their sin or seek to rationalise their sin.
To find forgiveness offered and given by the living God through humble contrition and acceptance of Jesus creates a deep and lasting reservoir of gratitude and love. Having been forgiven, the Christian will not only want to be forgiving of others, but keen to pursue a new life of obedience. “Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the whole world” said Dr. Leslie Weatherhead. Not only does it keep us humble and from a proud self-righteousness that would look down on others and be quick to accuse others of sin but it is a great motivation to live in accordance with God’s will. A constant gaze upon the Cross of Jesus will keep us from bitterness (for we will learn how to forgive), from living as we like (since Jesus died for my sin), from self righteousness (since Jesus had to die to provide forgiveness for me) and from despair (Jesus died for me out of sheer love for me).
That sounds like good news to me.