“Grace, Forgiveness, and Love”
Mark 1:4-5, 9 Luke 7:36-50 Hebrews 4:14-16
Rev. Paul E. Capetz Christ Church by the Sea (United Methodist),
Newport Beach November 3, 2019
Have you ever been wronged by someone? Have you ever been betrayed? Has someone ever violated you? Have you ever been hurt and wounded by someone? I think we all know what these experiences are like. These are some of the most bitter experiences in life. The question before us today is that of forgiveness. Can we forgive or not? Should we forgive or not? I have to confess that this question hasn’t always been an easy one for me to answer. There are so many circumstances in which it seems that forgiveness is either impossible or just plain wrong. So, for example, I often wonder whether the victims of the Holocaust were able to forgive their tormentors? And if they were able to forgive, should they have forgiven them? Can victims of rape forgive their assailants? Should they forgive them or not? Also, I wonder if it makes a difference whether someone who has hurt or betrayed another person us is genuinely sorry and asks for forgiveness. It’s certainly much harder to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry that he or she has caused hurt to another. There is a whole set of complex issues here that I wonder about but have never been able to answer for myself. I’m still wondering.
In the Bible and in the Christian tradition, forgiveness is a prominent theme. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks us to pray: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Even though the New Testament bears witness that Jesus was without sin, it also reports that he identified with sinners who were in need of God’s forgiveness since he experienced everything we go through in life. The Letter to the Hebrews says of Jesus that he was able to sympathize “with our weaknesses” since “in every respect” he was “tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Indeed, the story of his ministry begins with his baptism by John. John’s baptism was a symbol of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). By submitting himself to John’s baptism, Jesus publicly identified himself as a sinner who stood in need of God’s forgiveness.