What do we do with the offer of forgiveness?
In Numbers 11, we hear about the Israelites grumbling and complaining. Frequently, when I run into church people who constantly complain, they say; that’s just the way I am. Many people also say this about other behaviors. It does not just apply to complaining. People who have frequent affairs give the same reason; that’s just the way I am. This is also used by people who are abusive. In the past, when young men would act criminally, especially when they beat up or murdered people of color, the excuse was given, boys will be boys. In one sense this is true: we are sinners, and we are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves. This is not excusing the behavior, it is putting it in a different light: this is sinful behavior, and all sin, any sin, separates us from God in a way that we cannot bridge. None of us are free from sin, and as we are told in 1 John 1:8, if we think that we are without sin, we are lying to ourselves, and have no part in the gospel. If we refuse to believe that we sin, or if we refuse to ask God for forgiveness, we are in fact damned.
Unfortunately, many people want to excuse their behavior, or they want to think that their behavior is not as bad as others. In this life, we may make progress, but that is only measured against where we were: it is not measured against anybody else. We may stop particular behaviors; such as being abusive behavior, or engaging in addictive behaviors; but we never stop being sinners, not even for a second. Some people, at this point, would say, yes, I sin, but my sins are not as bad as; and then they would mention somebody else. The problem with this is that James says that if we break one commandment, we have broken all commandments. This means that not only are we all sinners, but we are all equally sinners: There are no big sinners or little sinners. We are simply all sinners: we are all in need of forgiveness. We do not excuse our behavior, but we return to the Lord our God, who is faithful and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. If we sincerely apologize to God, and ask for forgiveness, God will give us forgiveness. On the other hand, if we try to excuse our behavior, or we deny that we sin, or we refuse to ask God for forgiveness, then we are not forgiven, and are still in our sin. God offers us forgiveness. What is our response?
(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)