Lent is a great time to explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In his latest book, Tim Keller writes about the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He writes, "...The whole story of the world--and how we fit into it--is most clearly understood through a careful, direct look at the story of Jesus. My purpose here is to try to show, through his words and actions, how beautifully his life makes sense of ours" (King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus). What if the beauty of his life has everything to do with forgiving love?
I grew up with Jesus being the ticket to heaven. It did not matter so much how you lived your life, but what mattered was what you believed. As I go deeper in my love of God, I am finding that the meaning of Jesus is so much bigger and deeper. It is about real life now, which will last forever. But when we are only focused on heaven, we miss God's mission for us in the here and now. We miss the purpose of our changed lives.
What if the forgiveness that Jesus displays on the cross is the secret to a beautiful life. I mean, as we experience God forgiving us, we are on a journey of being healed and forgiving others. And we are not only called to forgive and love people who are close to us, but we are called to forgive our enemies, too. What if the power of forgiveness is not only for our own personal sins, but also applies to the reconciliation of the whole world? What if what Jesus does on the cross completely absorbs the power of evil, which leaves evil impotent? The way of defeating evil is revealed in Jesus' love and forgiveness of his enemies.
I just finished reading one of the best books I've read on forgiveness. Unconditional, by Brian Zahnd has made me rethink the power of God's forgiving love, revealed on the cross. He puts together two verses of scripture that I've never put together. One is the passage on the Narrow Gate (Matthew 7:13-14), and the other is the passage on the Golden Rule (Matthew 7: 12). Even though one runs into the other, I've always read them in two different contexts. The Narrow Gate has always been read in terms of going to heaven when you die, and believing the right things to get there. Whereas, the Golden Rule has to do with a way of life that we lift up as important, but do not see it as a part of our salvation. It's a way of life left for bumper stickers on our cars and a cross stitch that hangs on our wall. But what if the context is the forgiving love of God? What if it's all about this forgiving love, which has changed our lives, being lived out in such a way that the lives of people we meet are changing. Lives are changing because people are experiencing forgiveness, and they are passing it on--even to their enemies.
And what if when Jesus cries from the cross, "It is finished," he is talking about the old way of an "eye for an eye, " and the way of violence and revenge. So, what if the Narrow Gate is this life of forgiveness--treating others with the forgiveness we want for ourselves. We pray something like this every Sunday: "Forgive our sins, as we forgive the sins of others." What if this is not just something we say in church, but begin to realize that it is the mission into which we are called, though which God is saving the world? And this is the beautiful life which makes sense of our lives.