A Guest Post by Rachel Yousef
This is the fifth in a series of posts engaging with the sermons in Leaps of Faith: Sermons from the Edge. This post is a reflection upon a sermon entitled “Holy Spirit-uality” (pp. 34-42). The Scriptural texts for the sermon were John 20:19-23 and Ezekiel 37:1-14.
Forgiveness, for Christians, can be a thorny subject. We know Jesus’ admonishment that we are called to forgive our brother (or sister) seventy times seven (Mt 18:22). Yet, we all have wounds and betrayals that create fissures that run deep in our hearts. As Rob questioned, “Who can truly forgive their enemy?”
So what do we do? As Rob so eloquently pointed out in this sermon, we turn forgiveness on its head. We make forgiveness into something that is beneficial for my own freedom rather than for another’s freedom. We put limits and restrictions on our forgiveness. We demand apologies and changes before extending forgiveness.
The question I pondered while reading and reflecting on this sermon was, “What if God operated the way we are inclined?” What if he demanded repentance before offering forgiveness and restricted forgiveness to observable change? If this were the case, the whole gospel of grace would be lost. Instead of our repentance being an act of response, it would be “religious activity” aimed at securing our salvation. It would be my ability to repent well and adequately that would turn God’s face towards me again.
Here we run into another problem. If God’s forgiveness were based on my ability to repent adequately, then I must know exactly what I have done. I must know that I have deeply offended God. It is because of this offence that I am alienated from God. At its heart, sin is a relational issue not an abstract moral issue. Yet knowing that I have offended God is not something I can know outside of his revelation. He has to reveal my sin.
God’s forgiveness prior to repentance is what reveals my sinnership; it reveals that I have erred. It speaks my judgment, yet simultaneously grants my freedom because of the finished work of Christ. God’s act of forgiveness restores us from the dead; it breathes new life. No longer do I have to pay the price my sin rightfully deserves and somehow prove my worthiness. In God’s forgiveness he has already turned his face towards me. However, his forgiveness also demands a response. Thus, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom 2:4). God’s forgiveness further calls us to live out that repentance by becoming disciples, following the example of Jesus in being truly human by extending forgiveness to our brothers and sisters. This calling of being truly human by extending forgiveness is a monumental task that truly can only be accomplished by the breath of the Spirit!
Rachel Yousef is a graduate of Tyndale Seminary. In addition to being a very capable theology student, Rachel helped to prepare the manuscript of Leaps of Faith for publication.