by Andrew Cromwell
There is an old Spanish story about a father and son who fought bitterly and became estranged. The son disappeared into the night and the father was left broken-hearted. He searched high and low for his son but could find him nowhere. Finally after more than a year and on the brink of giving up all hope, he placed an ad in a Madrid newspaper. “Paco”, the ad read, “this is your father, all is forgiven. Please meet me at the offices of this newspaper this Saturday at noon.” At the appointed time, the father arrived at the newspaper’s offices only to find 800 Pacos lined up down the street.
We all desperately need forgiveness and reconciliation. There is something deep inside of all of us that craves for someone to release us from the burdens we carry. We can’t help but walk through this life and say and do things that are hurtful to others. We made promises we didn’t keep. We opened our mouths when they should have stayed shut. We lashed out when we should have reached out. And now we owe.
We owe debts to our children, debts to our spouse, and debts to our friends and family. And these debts cannot be repaid like one pays the tab at a restaurant. We know that we can do more and try to make it up to the person, but more often than not, what is required is their forgiveness. We cannot force forgiveness, it is either given or withheld. It is not found in words alone, but in the invisible work of the heart.
We seem to be in the business of creating debts that require forgiveness. And, honestly, there really is little hope for us to be truly forgiven if we look to humanity alone to offer it. For humans are fickle creatures, often unwilling to forgive even if forgiveness is “deserved.” And, God forbid, what happens if we owe a debt to someone and they die before offering forgiveness to us? Can the debt ever be forgiven?
I am convinced there is no way to solve the problem unless we come into contact with the Divine. Only One who is truly higher than us can absolve us completely of our sin against each other. But what must we do so that Heaven will forgive us?
The answer is found in Jesus Christ. The One who is fully human and fully divine. The One who offers forgiveness to all who are willing to receive it. The great news is that His forgiveness is not based on performance, it is based on His love. He does not offer it to only a select few, but to all. There are no hoops to jump through, no religious rites to practice, no divine checkboxes to tick.
Forgiveness comes through relationship. John, one of the great authors of the New Testament, writes that “To as many as received Him [Jesus], to them he gave the right to be called children of God.” Receiving Jesus means putting Him in the driver’s seat of your life. It doesn’t mean that you live perfectly, it means that you are continually seeking His way rather than your way.
When we receive Him in this way, then He gives us “the right” to be God’s children. That means that we have His full acceptance and His full forgiveness. Just as the greatest Father you could ever imagine would always, always, always be ready to receive His children with open arms no matter what. So too, God is ready with open arms today for all those that receive Jesus.
Need forgiveness today? The first step is to find it in Christ.