Kingdom Principle: Forgiveness without Freedom, is the Cross without Christ – meaningless
|Exodus 14:19-31||Psalm 114||Romans 14:1-12, 15:1-7||Matthew 18:21-35|
I most often hear the cry of Karma not from Buddhists’ or those who practice eastern religion, but rather from “pagans” who declare that you had “it” coming. Those who adhere to Karma as a “law” of causality, meaning; that if you do good, then good comes to you and if you do wrong them wrong will come back at you, realize quickly that the “law” of reciprocity for Christianity – is not for them.
- Reciprocity : a situation of relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc. : a reciprocal arrangement or relationship
For what reason shall you continue do good, when you are repaid with evil? The Christian call for reciprocity follows to answer this manner. It is because of the flow of the blood of Jesus that makes forgiveness possible also leads to the transformation and renewal of the mind, such that Christians are no longer called to keep score or to please themselves rather they are called to please and build up others. The call of reciprocity means that no matter how many times you forgive (a good thing), you are called to do it again, even if someone else does evil 490 times over and over again against you…. Forgiveness is the Christian Karma… For the Christian; the cycle of forgiveness is not based on the reception or response of the other, it is based on the resurrection of Jesus!
A quick summary of this week’s texts:
- The Israel has been covered by the blood, and now they are set free.
- The unmerciful servant was given forgiveness, but failed to live free, which led him back to be bound by debt which he was once free.
- Paul in Romans 14 & 15 is addressing a way forward in some of the most difficult circumstances the church finds themselves in both in its 1st century as well as today in the 21st
- The Psalm draws our attention to the power of the hand of God. There is nothing that God cannot re-create – the creation, the nation of Israel, and our lives today are to tremble ONLY in the presence of the Lord. God is our King, yet dwells mightily with us…
How this impacts us as the church as we advance the kingdom: We are called to trust the King as our master and ruler of our lives, in this King leads us to trust in his freedom and forgiveness. Foundational concepts have been addressed elsewhere:
The servantleaders of the Kingdom are called to (both) Forgiveness and Freedom. (but it is easier to practice them separately than to integrate the concepts) Unfortunately, many practice Forgiveness a part from Freedom; this looks like;
- I forgive you, if…… or I forgive you, but…… or I forgive you, when…..
The true gift of forgiveness is not bound by our hands in judgment or condition, rather our hearts are bound by love to offer forgiveness freely. The fact of the matter is – forgiveness is a gift of the Father given to us, to give away. Therefore forgiveness is not ours to make conditional or to control. However, it is the Father ‘s to give to all in Jesus Name! Therefore where the Father does put a condition on it we will do well to listen closely and act accordingly– you are forgiven as you forgive. (Matt. 6:12-15)
When we separate freedom from forgiveness, it becomes a license to do as I please. Paul covers this in depth in Romans 6,7, & 8 and says “By No Means” is this true. There is a price to freedom and that price was paid for your forgiveness. Therefore – while we are free to forgive and we are free to withhold it, (we have that right) but to withhold forgiveness is to bring our own condemnation. Therefore the call of Christianity is to forgive (Eph. 4:32, Col 3:13) as well as to live free. (John 8:31-32, Romans 8:1-2)
What is “it” that we are to forgive? It is Sin! It is always the guilty, broken and the captive that are in need of the freedom of forgiveness – therefore a person is always involved, but truly, it is sin which is forgiven. (1 John 1:9, Micah 7:18-19, Psalm 103:12) When the focus of forgiveness is not on the removal of sin, but rather the failure of sinners, we have made a sinner’s identity on par with their sin. Our Identity is found in Christ’s actions not our actions. The Freedom of this week’s texts takes us as kingdom servantleaders beyond forgiving those who “need” it. And specifically challenges us to withhold judgment as to “who” it is that needs it. Rather we must freely forgiven and move forward with Mercy. The choice of forgiveness while being essential is also only the initial choice to being the church. This has been addressed as choosing 2LAF as a way of life.
The Church is called to afford each other the same rights that they individually desire and claim to have in Christ. This is true freedom. In the Romans text– Paul is addressing food laws & sacred days, but it is clearly a stressing point for today’s church which finds itself divided on a number of issues: worship attire and liturgy, woman ministers, baptism and gifts of the Spirit, homosexuality, end times, marriage, leadership power and systems, and those are just the ones I have addressed with my co-laborers who are in leadership this year alone. The key to addressing these matters is to see that while each may be disturbing & disputable to one – to another they are a matter of fact. Overall, they may not be solvable simply because they are perpetual. Meaning both sides have clearly established, based on Scripture, their defense to promote their point of view – and both sides (of any issue) are convinced in their own minds that not only are they right but they are also holding the superior or stronger view. To this Paul says, the strong must not hold the weak with contempt and the weak must not judge the strong. This is the hard part, because God has accepted them both – the weak and the strong! (Romans 14:3) I am not advocating here any one view on any one topic – rather I am addressing the need for us to value freedom of conscience as much as we value forgiveness of Christ. It is my opinion that our willingness to give freedom is reciprocal to our awareness of receiving forgiveness. It is for this reason that Paul considers himself amongst the strong. He has fully come to grips with the weight of his sin which has been forgiven. (1 Tim 1:15, Romans 7:24-25)
To fully grasp the Kingdom is to practice reciprocity with both forgiveness and freedom. This expereince is to be set free from the judgments of all others, and to be accountable to God and our conscience. (Romans 2:15, 1 Cor. 4:1-5; 8:9-10, Titus 1:15, 1 John 3:21) While this poses a great risk to some (the weak), others to whom it is not a risk (the strong) are not to use this conclusion to hold their perspective as overruling (against the weak). In short forgiveness and freedom drive us deeper in our allegiance to the King, giving account to God for our lives; for we belong to the Lord.
A very simple conclusion to a complicated matter: Freedom & Forgiveness are marked with Thanksgiving.
- Does your Freedom lead others to give Thanksgiving? This becomes a test if you are seeking to please yourself or to build up and to please others. Yet this still puts your actions to be dependent on others affirmation or approval…. Therefore
- Do you give Thanks for your Freedom? At the end of the day – do you say “thank you” to God for the choices you made today? This may include choices that other consider wrong or sinful…
- Do you say Thank you to God for your glass of wine?
- Do you say thank you to God for your choices in regard to how, when, where you worship? (meaning if your not at church on Sunday – do you feel guilty or free, and does that freedom draw you closer to God or to altogether forget about Him?)
- Do you say thank you to God for your freedom in relationship, both to engage and cut off? This is not to advocate either, but is thanksgiving a part of your freedom to choose?
- Do you say thank you to God as you eat meat sacrificed to idols? (Because you don’t know who touch or prayed over your meal before you sit down to eat – a good reason to pray before you eat….
Finally – does “Thanks be to God!” – dominate your thought life – if so – your conscience just may be clean.