I have been thinking a lot about gifts lately (which make a ton of sense since Christmas is right around the corner). Trying to help our kids catch that God showed us the most amazing gift by proving just how much He really is God-with-us on the first Christmas is pretty hard during the Over-Commercialized Christmas season in which we find ourselves.
One piece of the puzzle of how to think about God’s gift to us on Christmas has been to consider the greatest gift that has ever offered to me. In Romans 6:23 Paul says,
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Eternal life. Life without end. Life that is as deep and rich as I can imagine that continues forever… that is an incredible gift. Especially when I have to come to grips with the fact that I have done nothing but earned death because of my own sin. I deserve to be removed from the eternal family because of my selfishness, my indifference towards the “others” in my life, and my downright mistreatment of myself, my neighbor, and God.
All of us fall into that boat; Paul talks about it a bit earlier in his letter to the Romans (Romans 3:23),
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
All of us are hopelessly destined to head towards our own destruction without the gift of eternal life extended to us by God. This fact, in the same moment, makes me thankful for the grace of God in my life, and encourages me to forgive others for their sins. If I know that I am sinful because we are all sinful, then I know that every other person with whom I interact is also sinful (because everyone is sinful). If I know that even my sin can be forgiven, as a wonder gift, by the grace of God, then I should know that every other person’s sin can be forgiven through that same gift, that same grace.
I preached a sermon during our sermon series in the Gospel of John about how Jesus creates a community that is radically inclusive. He demonstrated this when He washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, the one who would eventually betray Him to torture and death, an act of humility and love. (See John 13:1-17) We, too, should be following this Kingdom Standard, and take part in creating a radically inclusive community where what doesn’t matter is what a person’s past sin was, but rather that they have admitted their sin, believed that Jesus’s sacrifice brings them into the family of God and makes them new, and both confessed their sins to God and to others and committed to turning from a life marked by sin to a life marked by the love of God.
The Christmas gift that I want to give this year, and one that I hope you, too, can give, is the gift of forgiveness. I want to forgive just as God forgave me. Will you join me?