“Christians aren’t perfect, they’re forgiven.” A sentiment proudly displayed on tee shirts; flaunted upon bumper stickers; preached from the pulpit; and blasted over Fox “news.”
It’s a great sentiment, and comforting to those who know that their actions are hurting people but are unwilling to amend their course of action. But is it true? Are Christians really forgiven? Well, if you believe Jesus, then the answer is a resounding no! “Christians are NOT forgiven.”
Jesus’ biographers recount Jesus’ remarks on this very topic, and his criteria for receiving forgiveness. Yes, there is a criterion, and it’s all about timing. According to Jesus, forgiveness is not about being forgiven, it’s about FORGIVING!
In Matthew 6:14-16, Jesus’ biographer reports:
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Luke 6:37 repeats this assertion:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Jesus discussed forgiveness with Peter, who wanted to know how many times he would have to repeat this process:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.””
So it turns out that the sentiment is wrong. As is so often the case with Jesus’ theology, the very thing you’re asking from God is the very thing you need to give to others first.
Right now Christians are apoplectic. These are desperate times for them. Gays are destroying the sanctity of marriage and forcing Christians to marry their pets. Poor people are asking for help from the government. The unemployed are looking for a “handout.” Atheists are trying to prevent them from installing their Sharia law over the Constitution of the United States. Women want to own their own vaginas.
So the Christians are retaliating, secure in the knowledge that even though they are hurting others, God will forgive them.
Only Jesus says otherwise.
And this isn’t a call for acceptance either. Jesus isn’t asking his followers to accept those they don’t agree with. He’s saying flat out that you’re not forgiven UNTIL you forgive. This means that somehow, those who seek forgiveness from God must first find a way to place themselves in a position where forgiveness can exist in the first place. This “place” is a place of FORGIVENESS—forgiving FIRST… which, ironically, can only be done through the humility, compassion, and sincerity that Jesus so adamantly proclaimed.
In the same sermon, Jesus told his audience,
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Pay close attention to the wording here: If your brother or sister has something against YOU. How people feel about you is your problem, not theirs. The onus is on the Christian, not the other way around. So if those atheist liberal poor people are angry at you, don’t even bother asking for forgiveness until you get things worked out with them.
This message is hard-core, but the sentiment is simple:
- Do you want forgiveness? Then you must seek the forgiveness of the gays who want to marry.
- Do you want forgiveness? Then you’re going to have to seek forgiveness from the poor and those who need help.
- Do you want forgiveness? Then you’re going to have to seek the forgiveness of the liberals and atheists first.
Somehow, Christians need to leave their offerings, their ideology, maybe even their “Christianity” at the altar and make peace with the very people making their lives so miserable… if they truly want God to forgive them. But not to worry, that ideology will still be there when you get back. You might even find that once you’ve made peace with your “enemies,” you don’t need that ideology anymore, and you can finally sacrifice it.
So the bumper sticker should read: “Christians aren’t forgiven… but they will be when they’re finally willing to start FORGIVING!” Okay, it's a little long, but you get the point.