The murder of Botham Jean sent ripples throughout my city of Dallas, TX. Amber Guyger, a white off-duty police officer, shot and killed Botham: A black man in his own apartment thinking it her own. All throughout Dallas, many held their breath as they awaited the verdict. While a guilty verdict brought some sighs of relief, the actions of the slain man's brother shocked both the city and the nation. Though not originally planning to speak, Brandt Jean not only extended forgiveness to his brother's killer but wished her the best (namely a relationship with Jesus Christ), and even offered her a hug. A sharp debate ensued. Some criticized the act as "cheap grace" or the manifestation of a "slave mentality:" the result of hundreds of years of racist conditioning of an oppressed people. I must admit that I wrestled with this tension myself: “Am I weak for forgiving someone who continually hurts me?”
The Magnitude of My Offense
Our society thrives off of keeping people in debt, so it’s no wonder that genuine forgiveness is lacking. Make no mistake: Forgiveness is hard. At least it is for me, if I’m honest. At the core of my sinful heart is a desire for God’s rightful place as judge and jury. From here, it’s easy to see other’s faults and determine how “they” should pay: Especially when they’ve wrong me. To forgive is to give up control and place the offender in God's hands as judge and that’s not a natural response for my human heart. The problem lies in that I don't fully recognize how much I have offended God. God is eternal, therefore Sin has eternal consequences. Think about it: God exists outside of time and space. Therefore, any sin against God: Past, present, or future finds us guilty. Our actions are always right now from God's perspective. Therefore, the debt that we owe God is unfathomable.
The Magnitude of His Forgiveness
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus shares a parable of an unforgiving servant. The servant owed his master a debt of 10,000 talents. As one talent was equivalent to 20 years’ wages, it is inferredthat the debt was exponentially more than anyone could pay in a lifetime. After he begged for more time, the master forgave the debt entirely. Sadly, the servant did not show the same mercy to a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. Both the master and fellow servants were grieved and angered that forgiveness had not brought him to repentance. Surely the forgiveness of 200,000 years’ worth of wages would impact him, yet his heart remained unrepentant. The merciful action of the master represents God’s forgiveness toward us.
The Magnitude of the Gospel
God chose to relinquish his rights toward a cosmic grudge. While remaining just, he forgives our sin and even pursues reconciliation. The debt that would’ve taken eternity in Hell to pay, He paid in 3 hours at The Cross. Sinless, He took extreme measures to forgive me, a sinner. Thus, the Gospel presents a beautiful dilemma: Forgiveness is a two edged sword. In order to truly accept the forgiveness of God, I must admit my ownfault. On the other hand, when I realize the magnitude of the forgiveness I've received, I am more prone to forgive!
That's good news! Before the world began, an infinite God has made moves to forgive us. For those of us who have placed our faith in Him, the question then becomes: What will you do with the forgiveness that you have received from the Lord? I forgive because I've been forgiven. It's hard to forgive because it feels like weakness. But what is to be said when the omnipotent, omniscient, and sinless God has done so first? Jesus Christ died to save sinners. In his resurrection he brought new life and forgiveness. How do I respond to such love as this? By offering the same forgiveness to others. Not because they deserve it (I sure didn't), but because I received it in the same manner. Brandt Jean’s actions demonstrated this.
As a Christian, this has even deeper implications: Forgiveness now becomes part of my identity. This is strength, not weakness! I can boldly declare to a world that there is a God who forgives sinners like me. My life and actions now become the message of forgiveness and redemption. Why? Because I am forgiven!
So let truth speak! Let it speak through your life as a testimony to the forgiving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then you can repeat with the psalmist:
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
I am that man, clothed in forgiveness, and it's all because of Jesus Christ!