I've been reading a lot lately about forgiveness, love and the social ramifications of the gospel, which go way deeper than is evidenced by the way we in the church (and without) tend to think or operate. In all of this I was reminded of a little blurb I wrote while a pastor (initially in a pastoral letter and then mentioned in later sermons). The more I think about it the more I believe it. Here it is:
While there are those that would like to say that the defining characteristic of the church is its morality, I would disagree. Of course pure living and striving for holiness are essential to church living, but I believe the defining characteristic of the church ought to be forgiveness. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that in a church without an atmosphere of forgiveness there will be a stifled and largely fruitless attempt at holiness. As Christians we find our life in the perpetual forgiveness of Jesus and his cleansing when we repent. So too, a church finds life in the continued insistence of its people to repent when they have wronged one another and forgive when they have been wronged. With forgiveness there is real power and hope to move past sin and embrace growth together in Jesus’ name. I couldn’t call myself a member of Christ’s church if I didn’t hold firmly to these beliefs.