Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ALL can receive forgiveness, and Christ welcomes you back

I've been thinking about something lately, and that is the topic of forgiveness. Christ told all those who are heavy burdened to come to him and he will make their load light, that he will carry their burden because his yoke is light and his burden is easy. He took our sins to the cross with him and we must only accept his love and forgiveness to be with him always. But how well is this crucial message of Christianity being transmitted? In our zeal to condemn sin, do we make it abundantly clear that Christ welcomes all back to him no matter what? Jesus said there is one unforgivable sin, and that sin has been interpreted as our refusal to accept God's forgiveness. But everything else, ABSOLUTELY everything else can be forgiven, and even those with sins like scarlet can be turned like snow.

This message is downright shocking! This is not a message for goody two-shoes whose worst sin is accidently stepping on a bug. This message is for the hardened sinner. Those who society has rejected summarily, those who many believe are beyond redemption and are just scum of the earth. That's who this message is for. This is not just for the "nice sins". It's not just for those who cheated on a test, or who told a lie, or for those who gave into temptation before marriage. This is for killers, and child molesters, and rapists. I'm sure many people reading this are shocked at my comments. "How can we forgive these people?? We have no problem forgiving human weakness or small slip-ups, but these major sins, surely God does not expect us to forgive these!" Actually, he does. In fact, that's the whole message of Christianity! No one is beyond redemption. No one! I'm not sure if we emphasize this message enough.

All too often, people see Christians and accuse them of being hypocrites, because they know a Christian who does not "follow all the rules". The impression is that once you're perfect you can be a Christian. But the truth is the Church is not a hotel for saints, but rather a hospital for sinners! We are very zealous to condemn sinful behavior, to say how terrible abortion, euthanasia, pedophilia, murder, rape, etc. is, but how quick are we to forgive? The point is, we do not forgive people, God does, therefore we have an obligation to imitate God in his love and mercy. Does this mean we overlook sin? Of course not! One of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish the sinner. We cannot out of pride refuse to correct our brother, afraid he might not "like" us much anymore. We must be fearless, but we must also be open to criticism if others point out our sinfulness.

Along with admonishing the sinner, two other spiritual works of mercy are to forgive all injuries and to bear wrongs patiently. We must be willing to accept back those who commit the most heinous crimes. We must love them with everything we can, pray for them, hope for their eternal salvation. We strong as we are at condemning sin, we must be all the stronger in welcoming back the lost sheep. A corporal work of mercy is to visit the imprisoned. Who goes to prison? Those who commit crimes. Does the work of mercy say, go to prison for those who are wrongfully convicted? Or to visit those whose crimes are not so bad? Of course not. We are to visit everyone, and to love them, and to comfort them. Jesus always condemned sin, but if the sinner was penitential, Jesus, more than anyone, would open his arms to embrace him back.

Hating the sin, but loving the sinner has a very deep meaning. If we can truly do this, then we can quickly welcome someone back who repents of wrongdoing. How shocked would some people be, perhaps even myself, if someone was in the news for a terrible crime, but showed up later at Church. How many people would welcome this person? Would they run away, would they chat amongst themselves, asking what business he has going in there? How many would wonder what he's up to? If we do this, we are attaching the sin to the person. We are no longer viewing the person as separate from their sins, but rather as the sins being inherent in the person, as if they are inherently sinful, not just someone who has sinned.

Let's make an effort to welcome back those who society has labeled scum bags, and those who we consider the worst of sinners. Let's show them Christ's love. Some of the greatest saints in history started out as what we might consider reprobates, but with the light of Christ and God's mercy, became the great people we know them as today!

1 comment:

  1. Great post and an awesome follow up to Sunday's Readings!

    Kellie Ann