Do you know what the Gospel is? You know … the Good News? Do you? The Good News is that Jesus came into the world to forgive sins.
He came into the world, and he showed us the way to God. He said, “the way to God is in the forgiveness of sins.” He said it, he practiced it, and he died it. Full of mercy, full of compassion. Just like his Father.
The forgiveness of sins is not a dogma, it’s not an idea, and it’s not a point-of-view. It is the way.
And it is Good News for you, and me — and even our foes.
The funny thing is, despite this amazing Good News, most folks don’t realize that the forgiveness of sins is what it’s all about.
Indeed, most Christians seem to think that the Good News is about being nice to nice people and dressing up on Sunday. Most Christians seem to think that the Good News is basically a version of the Golden Rule.
You know the old Golden Rule. It says, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for being nice to nice people, and dressing up on Sunday. And of course the Golden Rule is a good thing, obviously, but you know – I’m not sure the Golden Rule really does us much good.
Thankfully, the Golden Rule is NOT the point of Christianity. It’s not the Gospel. It’s not the Good News.
Why? Because it’s nothing more than an idea of fairness. An idea which doesn’t take into account what people are really, actually like. It gives no comfort or assurance when people are unfair, unkind, or unloving.
The forgiveness of sins – on the other hand – the Gospel — is not an idea. It is not advice. It is not a suggestion.
The forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is a promise. It is a fulfillment. It is a commandment from God Almighty. And therefore it isn’t nice – it’s real, and it’s big, and it’s alive, and it will be.
For while most of us share a kind of fortune-cookie notion of what “Good people” are like — the Gospel of Jesus Christ assures us that God knows what Real People are like – and he loves us anyway.
Jesus never said that we had to be good first.
But Jesus does say that we need to REALIZE how much God loves us – because then our hearts will be kindled.
So what does this mean to me?
The way I hear it — all I need to DO to follow Jesus, is to want to be a humble person; who thanks God for my many blessings; who asks for God’s mercy when I wander away from his will; and who tries to show mercy to others – whether they are friend or foe.
I may not be able to be the perfect Christian. But I can be a Real Christian.
A Real Christian is never perfect, but wants to be on the path that Jesus laid out. A path which is not alone, but is shared by many pilgrims.
Now this may not look like much to a world of Principalities and Powers – but I believe it is the way and the truth and the life. And above all, I can do this. I can choose this way. I can thank God for my blessings, I can want to be more humble, I can ask others to forgive me, and I can sure try to forgive them.
But you know, I’d be willing to bet 10,000 talents that all of us here today are still sitting, locked, on the shadow side of a door that has been closed in somebody’s heart – maybe our own.
I’d be willing to bet sixty-million days’ pay that all of us here today have a relationship that has been wounded.
Wounded by sin, and more than that by the seventy-seven-fold greater sin that is Unforgiveness.
Yes Unforgiveness, the great multiplier of sin.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says you shouldn’t forgive seven-fold but seventy-seven-fold.
Why those numbers? Because he’s quoting from Genesis, Chapter Four. He’s reminding us of how sin comes into the world, how it grows, and how it multiplies.
You may remember the story.
Genesis tells the story about how Sin enters into the World by the Pride of Adam and Eve — who put themselves in the place of God.
This Sin of pride is multiplied when Cain murders his brother Abel in an act of revenge – revenge for injured pride.
Remember? Abel is better than Cain, and Cain becomes so angry, so wroth, that he murders his brother out of injured pride – and lives the rest of his days estranged from God.
This Sin of Injured Pride grows and grows, so that within three generations, Cain’s twisted descendants take their estrangement from God to new levels of hatred and evil. One of them – Lamech — even writes a song, bragging that for any injury to his honor, he will exact not seven-fold vengeance but seventy-seven-fold vengeance.
“You hurt me?” he says. “Well I’m gonna kill you.”
The story is ours, no?
In our pride we wander from God. In our wandering we hurt. In our hurting our pride is injured. From our injured pride we seek revenge. And sin is multiplied, and Unforgiveness continues its conquest of the human heart.
Does this sound at all familiar to what goes on in your heart? It sure reminds me of me.
So what do we do?
Well, again, the Good News is still good.
If you in your pride hurt someone – beg them to forgive you. If they do not forgive you – pray for it from God – and hope in Jesus’ name that one day they will.
If you in your injured pride grow angry and wroth – DO NOT TAKE REVENGE. But seek to forgive.
For it is only in this way that we can ever approach God. This is the only path to God’s door. It’s a path that has no secrets, no tricks and requires no special gifts or knowledge. And it is the only way Jesus has told us of.
Now, I guarantee you that it will not always work. You cannot do the work of reconciliation alone. You can do your part, and God will certainly do God’s part, but the other people in your life may not follow along.
However, I also guarantee you that if you do follow this path of Jesus – this path of mercy and forgiveness – you will never again be locked in that shadow space of tortured anger and unmet revenge.
Pray for me that I may learn to forgive as I have been forgiven – and together let us move along this pilgrim’s path to the kingdom of God. . Amen.