Summary: Forgive us our Sins... selections include Leviticus 16--day of Atonement as well as the Women caught in adultery
The Learning Channel hosts a show called What Not to Wear. In it the two hosts take someone who has been volunteered by family and friends for a wardrobe makeover. They go through the persons closet and clothes and pretty mach discards what they have been comfortable wearing. They then make suggestions and demonstrate how a new look, new colors, new fabrics can and will make a difference in how they look.
I hope to make a case that, you and I, should choose to get rid of some very unflattering items we like to wear. In church wording we call it sin. Now the world knows this and makes few of the do’s and don’t’s of religious people. What they miss is that these who are followers of Jesus don’t just say no to sin but yes to God’s forgiveness.
And this brings us to the there of this weeks part of our Lords Prayer. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” I believe this is the toughest part of the prayer because it implies a conditional clause that we cannot escape. What is a conditional phrase? It’s a if… then statement. The forgiveness that we receive from God directly depends on how we forgive others. “As we” indicates not just the amount but the attitude with which we offer forgiveness to others.
John 8 is problematic. Our earliest texts of John don’t include the story. But other trustworthy ones do and it is so like Jesus that it’s been retained, although footnoted in most bibles. The import of this story isn’t the inequality of not brining the man to judgment or if the accusers were part of a plot to take the women’s dowry. No, this story’s power lies in how Jesus confronts and forgives sin.
The woman doesn’t claim that the charges aren’t true. She doesn’t defend herself. And Jesus doesn’t seem inclined to ask any clarifying question. Instead he waits. He draws. He waits some more. Finally he speaks and goes back to writing. The person who has no sir is free to throw the first stone, is all he says to the mob. Only one person was qualified to do this and he didn’t pickup a rock. He was busy drawing in the dirt as the others left.
Alone with her, Jesus asks, “who condemns you?” When she says no one Lord, Jesus removes the promise or threat of any divine condemnation. The one who could have tossed the first stone is the one person also could offer forgiveness. And because of what would happen on the cross He does just that-He forgives.
Then Jesus steps preachy and starts meddling because He commands her to go and sin no more. God’s grace is not difficult to understand. God loves us! Mercy also, is not a horribly complex concept; we simply get what we don’t deserve. The kicker is that forgiveness goes deeper. To be forgiven is NOT just abort being pardoned FROM something we have done but TO a new way of living. It is being told to “go and sin no more’.
This is a difficult they to hear when we live in a culture that believes it is our God-given right to do what we darn-well-please. In some cases we have grain up in a religious climate that treats forgiveness like money in a birthday card-it’s just expected, it’s the usual. But it isn’t. Forgiveness like that has been called “Cheap Grace” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was killed by the Nazis.