Season 5 - Week 2
“Get up and go?”
Anita leaned in close.
"There he goes again," she whispered.
Finn had led the charge to the front, responding to a half-baked altar call. Any fears in the speaker that no one would respond could have been allayed had they known how we rolled. Finn cemented his status as undisputed rededication king long ago.
I resolved in that instant that I would depose him from the throne.
Over breakfast, a meagre 7 hours later, I listened as a bleary-eyed mid-adolescent charted his faith journey, and how in his life nothing was ever good enough. He had simply found a new framework – that of God, sin, and forgiveness – to apply it to.
I reeled off Biblical truths; “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36), “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), etc. realising that he had bought into a kind of “Try harder” Christianity. Finn gave himself a harder time than Jesus ever did.
But there was a deeper truth sitting underneath these verses. Romans 8:33-4nails it:
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.
The issue lies in the authority of Jesus to forgive you. Luke 5:17-26 is such a strange story on first reading, being the first of 5 controversial moments between 5:17 and 6:11:
Jesus has turned up in a village near you. The grapevine is buckling under the weight of miraculous activity wherever he goes.
Barry’s like, “We’ll give you a lift there, but you’re walking back by yourself…”
On arrival, it’s standing room only.
Me: “Forget it, lads.”
Barry: “Ever seen MI:1? We’re going in through the roof.”
10 minutes later, it’s not just a hush that descended.
Disciples: “What the??”
Me: Cute smile, knowing nod.
Jesus: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Me: “That was unexpected… now, about my legs…”
The Pharisees commence grumbling (standard), but I’m left wondering why forgiveness, when the presenting issue was healing. Jesus asks an impossible question. Is it easier to say, “You’re forgiven”, or “Get up and go”? They are both way out of our league!
“You’re forgiven” is actually easier, because unlike, “Get up and go,” you can’t prove it. But only a perfect God can forgive. The message was clear: Don’t come to Jesus just for healing, but to receive forgiveness. The divine authority to forgive is in Christ.
My message to Finn was simple: If he has forgiven you, stop beating yourself up!
Ouch. The lesson boomerangs back to a mid-adult. Every time we beat ourselves up over some bad choice or sinful (re)action when we have already repented, we deny the authority of Christ to forgive. We buy into assigned penance, where we must do something, often to placate our conscience.
But the truth of gospel is this: it has already been done.
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
"Finn gave himself a harder time than Jesus ever did."
In Andy's example, Finn struggled to forgive himself, even knowing that God had forgiven him - something most of us recognise in ourselves too.
If that's you, decide this week to stop giving yourself a hard time.
That's easier to write than it is to do. But deciding to do it is a start. Here are a few ideas for how to know that forgiveness
- ask God to show you (this is the most important one!)
- tell yourself every day. Find a phrase and say it loud every morning. "I am forgiven by God"
- go to Catholic confession. It might not be your normal style but if there's a church near you that offers it, try sharing your transgressions anonymously and hearing someone tell you that God forgives you.
- pray with someone you know. Find someone at church, or someone nearby, or call Youthscape if you don't know anyone locally.
Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul.