Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
January 12, 2020
Your sins are forgiven
Jesus was a supper guest at the home of Simon, one of the Pharisees. A woman who had lived a sinful life interrupted the meal. Standing behind Jesus, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then, to the dismay of the Pharisee, the woman wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair, kissed his feet and poured expensive perfume on them.
Simon was infuriated that Jesus would allow such a sinner to even touch him. Sensing Simon’s angry attitude, Jesus raised an interesting question with his host. First, he described two men who owed money to another man. One owed a large amount, the other a small amount. Neither had the money to pay their debt so the man canceled both debts. “Which of them,” Jesus asked Simon, “will love him more?”
Simon replied with the obvious answer, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” After commending Simon for his answer, Jesus invited him to take a new look at the sinful woman as he compared Simon’s inconsiderate welcome into his home with the lavish welcome of the woman. Because her many sins had been forgiven, Jesus said, “she has shown me much love.” Then, to Simon, Jesus spoke the stinging words: “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
Turning to the woman, Jesus said tenderly, “Your sins are forgiven.” Imagine how she must have felt at that moment. Surely those were the most beautiful words she had ever heard. She had known the pain of being despised, of having people look at her as though she was a piece of trash. Now this captivating teacher, in whom she saw the love of God, had spoken with liberating authority the transforming words, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those words birthed life-giving hope for her future in her heart.
Given the fact that we are all sinners, in need of God’s mercy, are those four words not the words each of us needs desperately to hear from God? There are other beautiful words. If you tell me, “God loves you,” I realize that is good news. But knowing God loves me does not set me free from the devastating guilt of my sins. So good news only becomes great news when I hear the Lord responding to my repentance by saying, “Walter, your sins are forgiven.” That is the liberating, holy moment of a lifetime!
As we travel life’s journey, we can look through the windshield at the future or we can look at the past in the rearview mirror. Looking at past wrongs can be paralyzing. Guilt may overwhelm us when we recall the shameful deeds of our youth. Will a just God forgive us?
Such pondering can result in bondage to the past. We are not free to enjoy life today. Guilt prevents us from inhaling the pure joy of knowing that we are alive by the pleasure of the God who made us and also loves us. So our most desperate need is what Jesus gave the sinful woman -- God’s forgiveness for our sins.
The gospels make it abundantly clear that we cannot obtain God’s forgiveness simply by asking for it. We must first forgive those who have sinned against us. If we are unwilling to forgive someone who has hurt us, we cannot enjoy God’s forgiveness for our sins. In the words of Jesus, “if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
This is an uncomfortable truth if you are estranged from someone who has sinned against you. But if you are to have peace with God, you must forgive that person – and the sooner the better since you know not when your own life with end. Three little words can end the agony of estrangement. Those words are “I forgive you,” three of the sweetest words in the English language.
Is there someone in your life who needs to hear those words from your lips? If so, you know what you need to do. Grab yourself by the nape of the neck, swallow your pride, and go do it! You can do it – and the Lord will help you do it.
Saint Paul understood the necessity of forgiveness. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul urged them to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” He followed that with one of the most profound admonitions in the Bible: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” So nothing, absolutely nothing, strengthens your relationship with God more than your willingness to forgive those who have sinned against you.
Many great truths can be summed up in few words: “God loves you;” “God forgives you.” Those words are like proclamations of the Church. But proclamations do not change our hearts and give us peace with God. That only happens when we become willing to say the beautiful words, “I forgive you,” to someone who has hurt us. Saying that to someone is like saying what Jesus said to the sinful woman: “Your sins are forgiven.” That gives God the opportunity to do what He does best: reconcile and heal our relationships.
At the center of Christianity is a cross, an ugly cross upon which Jesus died. Why did he die? So that all who believe in him might receive forgiveness for their sins. In a sense, when Jesus was dying upon that cross, God was saying to the world: “Your sins are forgiven.”
The living Christ, loose in the world since his resurrection, is forever empowering people of all races to forgive one another and to experience the joy of knowing their sins are forgiven. Millions of people have not heard this good news. Think of the people around you. There is likely someone in bondage who would be blessed to have you, as a caring friend, share the good news that their sins are forgiven. Hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven,” could very well convince some miserable person that God really does love them. + + +