Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forgiveness | Matthew Harrison

"'I didn't come to kill you." He was an imposing figure. He had an even more imposing reputation. But what he had been known for, well-earned to be sure, was not why I remember him.

He had become an ever more devout Missouri Synod Lutheran and regularly shared the good news of Jesus with, and invited to church, people who wouldn't have given him the time of day had he not been who he had been.

This former purveyor of intimidation had become an ambassador of reconciliation. this fact was all the more significant because it was not readily apparent. He was so unassuming, even with his rather imposing stature, that no one who hadn't come to know him would be aware of his past. Same man, same haunts, same circle of people--but for an ever-deepening, transformative joy of being justified in Christ.

Another man in a nearby community had sinned egregiously against my friend and his family. The former 'intimidator' went directly to the man in question, to his very doorstep in fact. The guilty party opened the door and began frantically to plead (with good reason), 'Don't kill me! Don't kill me!'

My friend responded, 'I didn't come to kill you. I came to forgive you.' He wasn't on a mission of retribution. He was on a mission of reconciliation... He hadn't come to exact justice. He had come as one justified sinner seeking the repentance of and reconciliation with another sinner.

The flesh relishes the thought of retribution.
The spirit rejoices in reconciliation.

The righteousness of Christ credited by faith is transformative. It reckons us what we are not and cannot be in and of ourselves--perfectly righteous with the righteousness of Jesus... we have been freely declared to be--righteous in Christ. Declared forgiven, we cannot but be forgiving... this righteousness was obtained fully by Christ's cross...

The benefits of Christ's death and resurrection are received, laid hold of, by faith. Faith simply lays hold of the gift, and even the faith, which receives the gift, is itself all gift... 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9)...

[Although we have fallen short and caused the Spirit of the Lord to burn against us, and the wrath of God to stir up against us...] When we confront God, he [sees us as his own son, he provides us with His limitless love, mercy, and grace and] says to us, 'I didn't come to kill you. I came to forgive you.'"

--Pastor President Matthew C. Harrison

An exert from A Little book on Joy (pages 44-47) as quoted in this month's Lutheran Witness.

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