Forgiveness . . .

Forgiveness, or the lack thereof is a critical issue in the Body of Christ.

I recently read a
report of secretly taped conversations between George Bush and Doug Wead when Mr. Bush was considering entering national politics in 1998. You may not know Doug, but he's a good man and a former Assemblies of God minister. He wrote a book in 1972 titled, Father McCarthy Smokes a Pipe and Speaks in Tongues. It was pretty controversial then, but it also was true. Doug is a former aid to President George W. Bush.

In the tapes Wead revealed, Mr. Bush talks about meeting with James Robison and James' advice: "What you need to say time and time again is not talk about the details of your transgressions but talk about what I have learned. I've sinned and I've learned."

"I said, 'James' - he stopped - I said, 'I did some things when I was young that were immature,' "Mr. Bush said." He said, 'But have you learned?' I said, 'James, that's the difference between me and the president (Clinton). I've learned. I am prepared to accept the responsibility of this office.'

So the question becomes," is it appropriate for Christians to forgive George Bush and elect and re-elect him as President while refusing to forgive another person and to accept him as a brother or sister?"

James Robison struggled with lustful thoughts and sexual temptation until he wanted to die. He awakened to his sin. He repented. He sought counsel and prayer and forgiveness from his wife and from his God. God forgave; Betty forgave; James' friends forgave and James' life and ministry were restored and he is now touching and helping millions of people. It is possible that the same people who are condemning someone of lesser fame also are receiving some level of ministry from James Robison.

David, King of Israel, sinned. He committed adultery with a young girl and arranged for her husband to be killed. Yet David is known as "a man after God's own heart" because he repented of his sin.

I have sinned. You have sinned. The Pope has sinned. The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God has sinned. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention has sinned: All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Is one person required to attain to some spiritual level greater than another? Must he or she achieve and maintain a higher standard of spirituality and holiness than James Robison or any other respected leader within the Body in order to be received into fellowship?

What is required in order to obtain forgiveness? The Bible indicates that repentance - an acknowledgement of past sin and a heart-decision to turn away from that sin and to go another way is the key to unlocking the door to forgiveness.

Works cannot be the determiner of when forgiveness is given, because Jesus said to the woman taken in adultery, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Forgiveness was issued at the point of repentance, not after a period of appropriate behavior.

Another question regards restoration. What are the criteria by which we determine when a man or woman is "restored?" Is there a one-year waiting period? Does it require three years to restore a sinner? Religion wants to neatly organize spirituality into a manual complete with a quick-reference guide. Religion wants to establish rules and regulations to cover every conceivable sin and failure so that we can just flip to the appropriate page and find the solution to our problem. But God doesn't operate within the pages of an "operating manual." God operates in the arena of the heart. God knows when a heart is sincere. God understands when a "broken and contrite heart" appears. God is the restorer; not man. And when a man or a woman has confessed sin (to God and to one another) and has repented of sin and has begun to live "another way" and has demonstrated to someone to whom he or she is accountable that he or she is indeed living "another way" it is incumbent upon all Christians to underscore God's love, forgiveness and acceptance by their actions and by their acceptance of such an one. As God has forgiven, so must we. As God has accepted, so must we. As God has endorsed a life by the provision of His grace, so must we.

For what and for whom was the precious blood of Jesus spilled at Calvary? What is the blood of Jesus intended for? Is the story of the cross merely a wonderful story of love and of sacrifice? Does the blood avail only for the "special ones" who have not committed public and grievous sins? Or is the blood of Jesus made available for those desperate, guilty, wicked, evil and wretched sinners such as you and me?

To favor or to forgive one person above another is as great a sin as adultery or murder. To judge any man after the flesh is a transgression of God's law and an assumption of God's authority:

"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." (Ro. 2:1)

Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Ro. 14:4).

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Cor. 4:5).

The Body of Christ rises and falls on this solitary issue: In what manner will we treat any sinner who has repented?

If we reject a repentant sinner, God will reject us. If we receive a repentant heart, God will receive us. If we say we hunger for revival, we must begin by forgiving those whom God has forgiven, and then He will forgive us.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

If we err in our judgments, let us err on the side of grace

Grace.... Greg

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