Things become clearer as you step. Walls that you did not know were there you quickly find when you step into them. It is easier to address cultural walls when they are visible and not hidden in the shadows. Here are a few reflections I have while sharing about the power of the cross and the need for a Savior who has bridged the gap between an all loving but all pure God and us (who do have sin and in ourselves can not approach the Heavenly Father on our own.) A few of the reactions are this: “I don’t have sin”, “I don’t need to be forgiven because I’ve done good works to make up for my bad ones” or “it’s ok I’m mostly good so God will let me in.” Many of my neighbors believe that there is a tally and the good balances out with the bad and if you have more good than you have bad then you will enter paradise when you die. This sounds logical, except it is completely unbiblical and completely contrary to the character of God.
Here is why. Islam states that there is no need to pay for a sin, no need for a sacrifice to completely pay for sin. There is no problem with bad being in paradise, it just matters that you’re mostly good. There is no perceived need for a savior who takes us where we are right now and says, “I have paid the price and in my blood you are covered and pure.” The person sitting in the puddle of mud thinks that by doing more work in the puddle they will eventually be clean but they reject the person on the side saying, “Come over here. I have a hose and I want to clean you off. Will you let me help you?” Having a road to Heaven that is based on works is a road that is based on prideful selfishness.
In this selfish view that says we can do it on our own, we also devalue who the Heavenly Father is. We reject the love that he showed by giving his Son to cover our sins. We reject the purity that is needed. We reject the wonderful work of love that we see in that pivotal moment of forgiveness when Jesus took all of our sins. Thus, at the end we have something that is logical (weigh out the good and the bad and measure which is more) but is devoid of the divine love, forgiveness, purity, and freedom that we find in the power of the cross. A view that God is One, and is great is as G.K. Chesterton says, “so huge a truth that it is hard to see it was a half-truth”. This view is so true almost all want to run to the truth and rally behind it in unity. The problem lies in the fact that it is still a half-truth. It is does not covey the love that God has shown by providing a path of forgiveness through the work that Jesus did on the cross. It does not show that we in our power can not approach that one God but in His love He has made a way that we can approach him through the work on the cross.
I mention this to share the backdrop for forgiveness. When a culture rejects the forgiveness given by God and instead says, “Through our works we will be pleasing in God’s sight,” they have no understanding of receiving forgiveness and thus giving forgiveness. I am hesitant to say this as a broad statement, but I have had a number of friends here that have this core belief in their lives and the lack of forgiveness simply breeds the detrimental 1 for 1, eye for an eye mentality. Jesus said things like, “when someone hits you on one cheek turn and give him the other” only because he was giving up ALL of his rights to be the sacrificial lamb for us. He called us higher by being the example. He showed us a greater view of love by showing it through forgiveness. He then called us to a greater means of love by giving it through forgiveness.
There is often a wall in these situations; there are barriers to giving forgiveness because we’ve never truly received it. Other times people can’t receive forgiveness from someone because they themselves have not given it to themselves and others. Luckily, Jesus showed the ultimate act of forgiveness, when we receive that for ourselves we can finally forgive others ourselves.