Friday, 20 March 2009

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

These words are the hardest in the Our Father to live out.  Our worship and love of God, if it does not involve forgiveness, comes to nothing. Forgiveness is the very thing Jesus does for us on the cross, and he hands this gift on to us in the work of the Holy Spirit he has given to his Church.

Forgiveness involves a readiness not to live in the past, but to be open to the future.  This means trusting that we can have a future, even when hatred, violence and evil have destroyed human relationships with each other and their relationship with God.

Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God, the urgent call to have a new heart, and to start again.  He calls us to set our hearts not on what we have been, but to what we can become through his grace.

Forgiveness is a costly gift.  Jesus gives us his very life on the cross to restore us to God’s friendship and to heal the wounds our sins have left upon our hearts.  Forgiveness is never easy.  We have to learn slowly to receive this gift, to be repentant sinners, so that we can be a source of forgiveness in our world. 


Anonymous said...

If Jesus forgave us upon the cross for our sins...then what is this purgatory all about?

Almighty Answers said...

There's a distinction between being forgiven and being healed. Just as if you got run over, there would be a difference between someone saving your life, and then you learning to walk againa and regain your strength.

In the same way forgiveness restores our relationship with God, but there is still work to do to grow in strength and the vigour of that relationship.

So there's a difference between the absolute and unconditional forgiveness of sins, and the healing of the effects of sin which needs to be done - both of them of course through the grace of Christ.

Purgatory is the consequence of failing in this life to be strengthed after the effects of sin. Souls in purgatory are totally forgiven - but they are not ready to enter the vision of God, which will be our complete happiness.

Hope that helps

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought that Christ bore the penalty for our sins through his sacrifice.

The sacrifice was not necessary to forgive but to atone for the effects of the sin surely?

Timothy Mills said...

I do like the idea of forgiveness. Even in the wholly material world I think we inhabit, forgiveness is a powerful and, I think, necessary part of a good society.

I don't see why the whole atonement business is needed, though - in my experience, forgiveness is at its most noble when it is unconditional.

The vicarious punishment of the atonement seems like a very melodramatic distraction from what I see as the best contribution of Christian tradition to modern ethical discourse.

To me, the inclusion of the atonement looks like a way of selling a (basically worthwhile) message of forgiveness to a culture that was used to (basically horrible) blood sacrifice as the means of winning divine favour.

Is there some good argument why atonement - and particularly the rather gruesome tale of Jesus' death - needs to be included in a modern view of the value of forgiveness?

Almighty Answers said...

Well, I suppose we have to ask what forgiveness in a world like ours actually looks like.

God could have wiped the slate clean and restored us, without any involvement on our part at all. But the whole patten of God becoming human is that God wants to use our humanity in his great act of salvation.

Jesus always speaks of forgiveness as a two way street "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6: 14-15). So being forgiven means also responding to that gift in our own lives, making it a reality the our relationships in which we live and move.

So the cross is both God wiping away our sin, but also his inspiring the gift of divine love into our hearts, so that we can forgive just as we have been forgiven.

The atonement of course could have an almighty answers blod just to itself - but watch out for our Holy Week post!