(This is part sixteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
Few people actually live as though they believe in…
“the forgiveness of sins.”
Consider, for a moment, that you could shed all of your regrets, move on from all your past mistakes, and walk into a future of freedom. Imagine you could live your life and make your decisions motivated by faith, and not fear. Some of the people I love in this world seem to walk around as though they have a cloud of guilt and shame from the past hanging over them. I wish they would shed the past like a butterfly sheds its cocoon and fly with wings of faith. Or, as Oswald Chambers said it, “Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”
So how does one do that? They can’t, at least not alone; instead they must be set free from their past by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The beautiful truth of the Gospel is that you can be set free. Jesus says that whoever sins is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). But He also tells us that the truest and most pure way we can live is when we are free to love God and others (Mt 22:36-40). We are meant to be free from sin; liberated to worship and serve God. That’s how Adam and Eve lived before the fall (Gen 2:25). Sadly, we are unable to purchase our own freedom. I can see no greater benefit of the forgiveness of sins than freedom. In Galatians, Paul says that we have been forgiven so that we may be free to love God and serve others (Gal 5:1, 13). In fact, going all the way back to the book of Exodus, the reason Moses tells the Pharaoh to set the Israelites free was in order that they might worship God!
Thus, when Christ has set us free, we are free indeed. We can stop being haunted by the past because we are set free from it. This doesn’t mean that we won’t still face the consequences of our past, but it does mean we do not have to be mastered by our sins. It means that God will redeem our past mistakes and use them for His glory.
We often want to fool ourselves and say that Jesus could not possibly forgive our worst sins; the sins we haven’t told anyone about for fear they would never look at us the same. That’s a lie. We overestimate the power of our sins and underestimate the power of the Cross. Could there be a sin more heinous than crucifying the innocent Son of God? Yet we see that Jesus prayed for them, even as they crucified and mocked Him (Lk 23:34). Truly, the cleansing power of the blood of Christ is stronger than the deepest, darkest stains of sin. We insult Christ when we think that our sins have more weight than His forgiveness can lift. God knows the full weight of our sin far more than we can ever fathom and none of it is hidden from Him, yet because of the overwhelming power of Christ’s blood, we can still be forgiven. This is truly miraculous.
Another thought that just occurred to me is that this line follows the line about the “communion of the saints.” How beautiful! Can there be any communion or harmony amongst us if we refuse to forgive one another? In his essay on forgiveness, C. S. Lewis says, Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. He continues to elaborate on this idea and closes by saying, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We are called to pay it forward, so to speak.
This type of love is something that is only possible through a connection with Christ and it is one of the most visible manifestations of the Church.
I pray that I will be able to live a life free from the heavy burdens of my past sins; a life that is radically free to love and forgive others!