Redemptive Release

Forgiveness can be a controversial subject, for a large number of reasons.  History shows that when marginalized people forgive the wrongdoings of those in power, they often remain oppressed.  That’s evident in the case of those who have been enslaved, abused women, and religious minorities.  In these cases, forgiveness seems to enable injustice.
All the same, a world where the restorative presence of forgiveness is absent is a world marked by violence, alienation, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.  Historical examples range from the deadly feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys to the widespread failure of punitive justice to help those addicted to illegal substances.
So it seems that while we know that forgiveness is necessary for peace and flourishing, it can also be a practice that can actually cause evil to continue.  So what’s the answer to this apparent conundrum?
The answer is The Gospel.  The forgiveness that begins with the vertical dimension – man’s relationship to God – is the key to putting forgiveness into practice in our human relationships.  The key to understanding the power of forgiveness is to understand its link to repentance.
The Gospel message is that when a sinner admits his guilt and turns away from their Sin and turns toward God, they are freely and fully forgiven.  One way of understanding forgiveness is to link it to the concept of debt.  When we are forgiven of a debt, those to whom we owe money no longer hold us accountable to pay it off.  The cost of the debt is absorbed by the lender and they are on even terms.  When God forgives sin, he no longer holds that sin against the sinner.  God absorbs the cost of the sin in himself – this is one of the things that happened on the Cross of Christ.  This then creates a reconciled relationship, one in which they can flourish in peace and purpose.  This is the “Release” of forgiveness.
But that same “release” is “redemptive.”  In God’s forgiveness of our sin, the act of forgiveness actually takes what was harmful and turns it to good use, making it redemptive.  It frees us from the oppressiveness of guilt, shame, and denial and compels us to pursue love, peace, and goodwill.  Let me give you one example.
When I was in Massachusetts, I met a man whose son had been brutally murdered in a senseless act of violence.  The murderer was tried and convicted.  Prior to the incident, the father had come to faith in Christ when he realized the magnitude of his own sins and sought God’s forgiveness.  So in the face of this tragic loss, the father pursued a reconciliation with his son’s murderer.  Visiting him in prison, he forged a relationship and forgiveness was requested and granted.  Today the man once convicted of murder is a productive member of society and regularly gives back.
This is an example of redemptive release.  Godly forgiveness can be a mighty force for good.  It can not only prevent the spread of more evil in the future, forgiveness is the fuel for incredible good.  It turns the addict into an agent of healing, the miser into a benefactor, the oppressor into a servant and the oppressed into a just ruler.  
Good News!  That’s God’s goal in his forgiveness that he freely offers to YOU.  God’s goal is to erase your wrongs and empower you to a right relationship – to God and your neighbor.
Join us this Lenten Season as I preach on the subject of forgiveness – God’s Redemptive Release.


Your Partner in the Gospel,

Pastor Ryan
God is Good, All the Time!

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