If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sin, He is faithful, and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (Stated to Christians in 1 John 1:8-10)

Christians make mistakes—even when they try hard, even when they try harder, even when they keep on trying harder! Hopefully, maturity in Christ produces fewer mistakes, but mistakes still exist. We do not live in Christ because we have no mistakes, but because we are forgiven of all mistakes. Our perfection does not save us, but God’s mercy demonstrated in forgiveness saves us. We are not one because we all agree —our mistakes always “get in the way”—we are one because we all stand in God’s forgiveness in Christ. The church is composed of appreciative forgiven people, not perfect people.

Often our personal problems as Christians arise from (1) our inability to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and (2) our inability to forgive self of known mistakes. Often our problems as Christ’s church arise from (1) our inability to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and (2) our inability to forgive others in Christ as God has forgiven us.

Commonly, I find that the most committed Christians are composed of those who “have been there and done that.” Why? In such people there is a blend of humility, appreciation, and gratitude that often is missing in Christians who are convinced that they always have “had it together” and “do favors for God.” Simply, those who know how they were forgiven are more likely to know how to forgive.

Jesus said that He came to call sinners (Mark 2:17). Paul said the foundation of all Jesus’ efforts was saving sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). No matter what Christ’s church does, no matter how “correct” Christians aspire to be, if the gospel message is not based on the practice of forgiveness, those in sin will never hear God’s call in Christ.

Can a movement based on God’s forgiveness in Christ advance on the conviction that “I committed the unpardonable sin,” “God could never forgive me,” or “Christ’s church is only for good people”? A movement that is God-based is forgiveness-based.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 February 2010

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