Thursday, January 20, 2005

Forgiveness and Healing

Mark 2:1-18 is one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture, because there is so much packed into it. We can gloss this one over as one of the healing miracles that Jesus did, but there seems to be a lot going on here. Who was this guy, the paralytic? Who were the four friends and what had the paralytic done to earn such loyalty, friendship, and love from them? What about the owner of the house? What did he think when four guys tore a hole in his roof?

And what did all of them think when the first thing out of Jesus' mouth was "Son, your sins are forgiven"? The passage here says that the teachers of the law were thinking that Jesus was blaspheming, but I imagine that the others were saying, "Huh? We didn't lower him down to get his sins forgiven! We lowered him down to get him healed! If we wanted his sins forgiven, we would have just waited until the Day of Atonement!" At least, that would have been my reaction.

You see, I wonder sometimes if those of us who have grown up Christian have undervalued the forgiveness of our sins. We've treated it almost as an eternal slot machine. We sin, we get forgiven and try to do better. We sin, we get forgiven and try to do better. The bitter irony of all of this is that so often, it's the same sins that we return to over and over: lust or greed or pride.

But here's the good news. There is another time when Jesus tells some one that her sins are forgiven. In John 8, he tells the woman caught in sin, "Go and leave your life of sin." Now, I don't know how you've pictured Jesus saying that, but many people for many years have pictured him saying it with a wagging finger or a stern look of warning that if she does, she forfeits her soul to hell. Which may be true.

But as I discover the Jesus of the gospels and not the Jesus of tradition, I don't see that one. I don't see the Angry God, waiting to drop us from the thread. I see the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one. I see the father of the prodigal son, welcoming him back. I see the Jesus on the cross who could have gotten down at any time, but chose to stay up there and act as the atonement for my sins.

You see, Jesus doesn't forgive sins and then give us a warning about not sinning again. He forgives us and welcomes us into new life with him. When he says, "leave your life of sin," he's saying there's a new way to live. A new way without the empty promises of money, the temporary pleasures of lust, the vain soullessness of pride. A fulfillment of what God has wanted for us from the beginning. A breaking out of a corner of the Kingdom of God.

This is his promise to us: the promise made in Isaiah, fulfilled in Jesus, and reminded to us by Paul. We are forgiven and we are made whole again. Just like the paralytic. Now, as forgiven members of God's Kingdom, God's Resistance Movement against Evil, against the powers and principalities, what do we do? Do we sit here in our nice buildings, large homes, well-manicured campuses and wait for the world to come to us? Did Jesus die for us, bringing us the forgiveness and healing, so that we can sing nice songs to each other and tell each other how great God is and how much He loves us?

No, he did not. He forgave us and made us whole, so that we can take the good news out of here and into a dying world. A world that needs him and world that is groaning for God, groaning for healing, groaning to be made whole. That’s the good news. Not that you’ll go to Hell if you screw up. But that Jesus offers forgiveness and healing. To all of us. To all the world.

Let us not forget the forgiveness and healing that we have been given, but also let us not be stingy or miserly with it.

For those that have ears, let them hear.

1 comment:

Clarissa said...


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