Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Secret Curmudgeon Part II

Forgiveness is the very same Gospel Christ preached to us.  It should have been obvious, but it wasn't. When I was a Protestant, I understood the Good News was for other people- a one time thing for me- once forgiven, always forgiven, no matter what. But the Gospel wasn't for me anymore, it was for the "unsaved". No wonder it never changed my life. Merely being forgiven isn't quite the same as being saved. To borrow Luther's example, I was nothing more than “snow covered dung”.  I suppose to certain kinds of Protestants, the Gospel can never actually change the reality of the dung... It can only mask it. We were always told that when God looks at us, He sees Christ because Christ covers us. But we are still worthless scum underneath... 

In Catholicism, the Gospel of forgiveness seems to assign worth to my depravity & I suddenly become transformed from a rotting eyesore or a pedestrian hazard to fertilizer or fuel... “Behold the old has passed away”, I'm a “new creation in Christ” & all of that. The Gospel is supposed to transform us so we can help others grow & move forward, not merely cover us so as to hide us with whitewash. That was me, a white washed tomb, a snow covered turd. I wore forgiveness like a fresh coat of paint, like I just got a free gift. It was free, wasn't it? That's what we were told when we prayed the prayer... I was told we ought to forgive because Christ forgave us, but it wasn't a requirement to get into heaven. All we had to do was receive His forgiveness, confess His name, believe we're saved in our hearts & it was a done deal. I was heaven bound no matter what. I never truly believed this in my heart (which is why I became a Catholic), but I sure lived with this mindset for many years.

The Gospel is still as much for me now as it is for an "unsaved" person. I wouldn't have realized this except for the constant reference to it in the Catholic Church. The Good News is that Christ has saved us, is saving us & will save us ultimately unto the next life- if we persevere. And we persevere not by resting in His forgiveness for ourselves, but extending that same forgiveness to others. The extension of forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel that Christ preached. What point is there if it ends with me? In the Lord's Prayer, we always say "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..." and for the first time, I'm beginning to understand what that means & just how difficult (but necessary) it is. No wonder we follow by saying "& lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.". Its so easy to be tempted by offense...

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