Tonight, for the first time in 3 years we’ll come face to face with the person who embezzled a large sum from our church over a period of several years. At our Thanksgiving Eve Celebration she will make some remarks to the gathered church. With the exception of what some grace-stirred people donated to her restitution fund, she has paid her court-ordered debt to us in full. That makes it easier for her to face us, but it has nothing to do with our ability or willingness to forgive her.
Some people compartmentalize sins: eating too much food at tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast, or holding a grudge for years, or vanity, or dodging taxes, are considered mild. Sins like homosexual acts, adultery, drug dealing, obscene jokes and language, drunkenness or embezzlement, are considered awful. Some who are “appalled by” the sins in this last category are “amused by” the sins in the first.
There’s a gospel flaw in that. A single “mild” sin makes a person just as guilty in God’s sight as a person committing “awful” sins (James 2:10). Which leaves little room for smugness. God lumps the lot of us together as just plain sinners. Proud pastors, tyrannical parents, griping homemakers, and lazy workers are sinners as surely as are the hookers, pimps, meth dealers, drunks…, and thieves. Since the problem of sin is always the same, so is the solution for everyone: repent and put faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.
That her theft hurt the church’s ministry for several years is irrelevant. All sin affects someone or something. We should not think others’ sins more calamitous than ours when we all bear responsibility for what took place at the cross. On our behalf, the magnitude of what the Roman soldiers did to Jesus is without comparison. Yet about these men Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” If Jesus could advocate for their forgiveness, and if God can forgive us though knowing perfectly our every sin and inclination to sin, how much more can we who have been so richly forgiven, forgive those who sin against us (Col.3:13); no matter what we think of the severity of the sin. Tonight, we publicly do what we’ve privately done already: forgive.