Forgiveness Comes First

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Mark 2:5 “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

For Jesus, forgiveness comes first. Paralysis, blindness, unemployment, loneliness, drought– none of these things ever damned anyone. But despair that God doesn’t love me because he holds my sins against me–that is deadly to faith. Who can trust God when you don’t think he loves you? Jesus looked at the man lying in front of him, and he saw that this man was paralyzed. But the Doctor of our souls also sees the heart, and whether this man was conscious of his greater spiritual need at this moment or not, Jesus was. Forgiveness came first. Before anything else, Jesus made this paralyzed man sure that God loved him.

Is our need any different? I know that Jesus can help me with so many things I am concerned about in life. I know that he holds the answer to every question I can think to ask. And I know that sometimes we believe that if we talk about forgiveness too much, people will take it for granted. We fear it won’t seem so special anymore. The Bible is a big book with lots of information. The forgiveness of sins is just one part of that message. Maybe we don’t believe we can take so much time to focus on one single issue.

But I also know that what I need more than anything is not more advice on how to go to school Christian, or how to work Christian, or how to date Christian, or how to raise a family Christian, or how to vote Christian, or how to diet Christian. What I need more than anything is to know that God loves me. There is nothing that my heart longs more to hear than how much he was willing to do to save me, how much he was willing to give to have me, how much he was willing to sacrifice to make me his own. Nothing so changes me as when Christ is held before me in all his grace, compassion, and forgiveness. You know, they have been telling me to stop sinning for as long as I can remember, and it hasn’t stopped me yet (not that I didn’t need to hear that!). But one thing changes my taste for sin, and fills me with the desire to live a life of love. That is hearing about Jesus and his love. And his love always begins with forgiving my sins.

Jesus’ words to this man are exactly what we need to hear: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus calls this man “son,” literally “child” in the original. Does something inside of us rebel at being referred to that way? “Child” can make us feel incompetent, dependent, and needy. “Child” makes us feel like we can’t take care of ourselves.

But that is how we need to feel. Spiritually, that is what we are like. Then we are ready to receive what God is giving. I have often thought that 4 years olds have life about as good as it gets. So little is expected and so much is received. When I was 4 my parents took care of everything. They paid the bills, put the food on the table, put the band-aids on my owies, and tucked me into bed at night. They watched me to make sure that I was safe, and carried me when I was tired, and held me when I was scared. I was the object of their affection and the center of their concern. Being 4 years old was a great gig.

Children of God, you are the objects of God’s affection and the center of his concern. As children in his family, you can be sure that he is there to take care of everything. How can you be so sure? Because forgiveness came first. Your sins are all forgiven. This same Jesus has taken every one of them with him to the cross. You enjoy your Savior’s unchanging and unlimited love because no sin stands between the two of you anymore. He loves you no matter how many hurts and heartaches lay you flat on your back in front of him. And you can be sure that in his own time and way, he is going to take care of those things, too.

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