Forest Lake Talks

The Fifth Week of Lent – Letting Go of Judgement and Holding on to God’s Grace

March 29, 2020

by Jill Duffield, Presbyterian Outlook editor

JOHN 3:16-18

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

God does not condemn us. Despite our mistakes and missteps, what we have done and what we have left undone, God does not call us out publicly, judge us harshly
or sentence us to lifelong punishment. In fact, God so loves us that Jesus is sent to save the world. During this season of Lent, we follow the Son to the cross and grave, to the tomb and back to Galilee, learning all the way about repentance and forgiveness, grace and transformation.

Imagine if those of us reconciled to God through Christ practiced even a modicum
of the mercy extended to us? What would it look like for us to let go of judgment and focus instead on extending grace? Consider the impact disciples would make if we sought to be just and not vindictive. What divine inbreaking might happen if we yearned for restoration rather than retribution or revenge?

As Richard Lischer notes in his book, “The End of Words: The Language of
Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence,” forgiveness always costs someone something. It cost God the Son. As we seek to follow Jesus more closely this Lent, we too are called to extend forgiveness, even though it will inevitably cost us something — our pride, perhaps. Or our need to be right or our desire to see someone get what we think they deserve rather than what our faith calls us to hope for them.

If God does not condemn us, how do we emulate the One we worship, and stop
condemning others and instead point them to the saving love of Jesus Christ?

Grace, Alpha and Omega, is difficult for us to stomach. We yearn not so much for universal mercy, but for punishment for others. Instead of celebrating radical transformation, we hold grudges and refuse to believe change is possible. Despite our pettiness and our sin, you refuse to condemn us. You come to save us. May the joyous recognition of such divine mercy shape us into a merciful people. Amen.

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