Joining the human race

Masses of people gather to participate in a "rose march" in honour of the victims of Friday's bomb attack and shooting massacre, outside Oslo City HallWe’ve been going over with the prayer team the prayer Jesus taught us, and the significance of that simple prayer strikes me every time I think about it, especially the part “forgive us … as we forgive …” I left out part of it for two reasons. 1) There are a number of different versions commonly used, so you can put in the one you’re use to because they’re all correct. 2) It doesn’t really matter whether you use “sins,” “debts,” “transgressions,” or something else, the important part is “Forgive us … as we forgive.”

These two “forgivenesses” are interlocked. You can’t pull them apart. If you can, then something is wrong. If you can’t do one, there’s something wrong with the other. If you can’t forgive someone, then you are not experiencing your own forgiveness. Similarly, if you can’t, for whatever reason, believe or receive your own forgiveness, then you will not be able to forgive someone else. They are interconnected. The little preposition “as” is the key. Like the old “Love and Marriage” song, “you can’t have one without the other.” You are forgiven as you forgive.

The love and marriage analogy stops at the horse and carriage, however, because the horse precedes the carriage, but in the case of forgiving and being forgiven, one does not precede the other. You do them together. You do one as you do the other, and if you can’t do one, you can’t claim to have the other.

If you can’t forgive, then you are not forgiven. Now, I know that’s a strong statement, but that’s the way Jesus is trying to get our attention. Of course you have been forgiven — we all have been forgiven — you just won’t experience it if you can’t forgive someone else. If you can’t forgive, it will be as if you have not been forgiven, even though you have. That’s why this is so important. One is an indication of the other.

I recently heard a woman say to someone else: “I don’t judge anyone. If I did, I would have to judge myself and I know how that will come out!” She gets it. It’s the same with forgiveness. It’s also the same with grace. That’s why we say, “Grace turned outward”; because you can’t experience God’s grace without giving it to everybody. And if you can’t give it to everybody, then you haven’t truly taken it in and embraced it yourself. Grace turned outward is no big deal as long as you know His grace toward you. Like forgiveness, it’s not as if one precedes the other, it’s that one is connected to the other.

I wrote a song once about what it was like when I realized that God’s grace put me in with every other sinner and connected me to them as that grace turned outward. It was like joining the human race for the first time. Here is part of that song:

And suddenly there was with me
An ocean of humanity
A sea of many faces
In waves of warm embraces
And as I questioned how to judge them all
Who would rise and fall
I found myself among them
And it mattered little who was wrong or right.

Take in God’s grace. Take it in completely. You don’t deserve it, nor does anyone else, so there’s nothing you can do but open to it. And once you have done that, giving it out will become second nature. You’ll want everyone to have it! That, too, is grace turned outward.

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One Response to Joining the human race

  1. Peter Leenheer says:

    This catch gave me a new way of looking at that statement in the Lord’s prayer. i thought we weren’t forgiven if we did not forgive and that is terrifying. If you don’t forgive you don’t experience it. That makes more sense to me. Just like the parable of the man who was forgiven a huge debt but could not forgive the small debt. It must be awful to be forgiven and not experiencing it. Imagine living your life like that, then going to heaven when you think you might be going to hell. Now that is grace undeserved.

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