At the EFCA’s Eastern District blog the Eastern District Co-Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Brown wrote a unique post. In it, Dr. Brown asks if the church should ask the world for forgiveness. This blog is going to push this post and then write a response. But this is the direction that these discussions should be headed.
“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.“
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
Dr. Cedrick Brown
Last night before I was getting ready for bed I was cleaning out my email box and reading what some people emailed me. It was then that I came across a blog post that was done by the EFCA’s Eastern District Co-Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Brown. He wrote a blog post at the Eastern District blog that asked the question should the church ask the world for forgiveness? This blog wants to write a response in a few days. I have a number of posts in the pipeline I am trying to get out. But this post by Dr. Cedrick Brown in my view takes the discussion in a necessary and healthy direction. This blog is also encouraged that Dr. Cedrick Brown is willing to bring up such a topic. That takes courage and integrity. I want to push Dr. Cedrick Brown’s post and encourage people to read and discuss it. Then I will write a response in a few days to this blog post at the Eastern District website. The original blog post is called, “Should We Ask Forgiveness?”
As a child, I remember having literal fist-fights with my older brother. When I reached the age and strength in which I could finally defend myself, I was fully engaged in sibling warfare. Yet, no matter how emotional or physical it got, we were forced by our parents to do the most dreaded and inevitable symbol of true family reconciliation. After drawing battle-lines in the invisible sand, we were required by our parents to kiss and make up. Yes, two teenage brothers after a physical brawl had to corral their emotions, get their wits about them, and literally kiss each other on the cheek. This painful gesture started us both on the road towards repair, forgiveness, and I can now admit, growth – in every kind of way. It moved us from being sorry we got caught fighting, to developing the capacity to overcome our emotions and learn how to forgive – quickly.
As a man, I commenced building upon this forward act of redemption learned as a child. I began to realize that the words please forgive me strongly outweighed the words I’m sorry. I believe forgiveness suggests I’ve wronged God and I’ve also wronged someone created in His image – not to mentioned someone I offended or deeply disappointed.
Ephesians 4:32 suggests, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Forgiveness is simply what we are commanded to do. I must admit that I’ve painfully and defiantly learned that there is the supernatural power God perfectly wrapped up in the words and acts of forgiveness.
Now as a husband, father, and leader within the Church, I’ve tried my best over the years to model the power of forgiveness. Thus, it’s a topic freely discussed within my home and church at many deep and even agonizing levels. So, it doesn’t surprise me that my wife Lisa and I are discussing forgiveness at a new level during our current crisis as a Nation. We, like many others, are searching within our own hearts and within the heart of the Church for answers. We, like everyone else, want to experience unity among races (or whatever you want to call us). We long to see Whites and Black or whatever pigmentation you choose to identify with or not identified with, ultimately united. We want us all to kiss and make up – to forgive.
Yes, we firmly believe that there is a sin problem in the world which can only be solved by, in, and through the work of Christ alone. But, what’s the delay? Why isn’t Christ fixing the problem?
I firmly believe, if a problem continues to exist, it does not mean the power of God through Christ has lost its ability to transform sinners into saints. It means I, the saint, must then courageously look within my own heart to admit that I am the sole reason why the problem continues to exist. I am the common denominator.
Chances are, God has chosen me to go out on a limb to be the agent of change. Church, we are agents of change but sin unfortunately exists within our camp. I’ve learned from early fist fights with my older brother, from deeply emotional arguments with my wife, and from painful experiences with the Church that the greatest tool of change is forgiveness. So, when Lisa asked me the below question, during one of our early morning discussions, I understand stood exactly what she was saying.
“As the Church, should we ask the world to forgive us?”
Church, no matter what the world is doing or not doing, we, the agents of change, have not honored God while living in the world. We are not as a whole doing what we should be doing, living how we are created to live. We are not influencing the world as little Christs should. We’ve tactlessly been in the world and also of the world. What makes me think this way? The world is still undeniably decaying right before our eyes. The world is unquestionably resembling Sodom and Gomorrah. There’s absolutely more going on than systemic race issues. There is a systemic sin issue within the heart of the Church which delays the healing of the land (2 Chronicles 7:14). We have sinned against God, and we have sinned against others because we are the remnant with the Answer.
Now, I know there’s still a vestige of righteous ones in the land but if we want to experience systemic change in the land, there must first be rapid change within the heart of the Body of Christ. Therefore, in our delinquency before God, should we the Church, ask a dying world to forgive us? I believe if we search deep enough within our hearts, we can find many areas we have failed at representing Christ to the world. I can list many ways we have blended into the world or even in some ways, never left it.
Here are a few to start with:
1. Should we ask the world to forgive us for LOSING OUR VALUE AS SALT?
We are sprinkled throughout the world for medicinal reason, to bring healing to a hurting people. We are left as preservatives, to help preserve the righteousness of God in an ever-decaying world. We are the seasoning upon the earth so that lost and hungry can taste our lives and know that our Lord is forever good. Church we must become useful again.
God is sovereignly agreeing with the circumstances of our day to help shake us all out of our comfortable saltshakers. Yet we must become a people who usefully respond to God’s hand upon the lever, that releases us as a required season which stimulates and advocates for the presence of Christ upon the earth. Are you willing to be released upon the earth to provide healing to the hurting? Does your life in all ways preserve the reputation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Can those around you taste from the fruit of your life, the hope found in Christ alone?
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
2. Should we ask the world to forgive us for NOT PROVIDING GUIDING LIGHT?
The world is dark, very dark. Its darkness has been masked as a shade drawn on a bedroom window. We don’t know if the sun (Son) is really out because we’re deceived by the “shades” of church and ministry successes. These are our in house victories which have zero impact on a dark world. Church, we are called to be visible. The Body is created to make disciples of all nations who are sent out – into the communities of the United States of America as well – as points of lights.
But are we? Is our city hidden? Is our lampstand veiled? We are created by God to be seen and not veiled – and if we are seen, we are also heard.
When the world glorifies our Father in heaven, this confirms our level of visibility and volume upon the earth – thus increasing our effectiveness. It’s time for us to let the world see the good works of God in us and through us so that Christ may be lifted up and draw all men to Himself. We must cease from hiding our lamps within our buildings and under the mascara of internal, homogeneous programing that makes us feel good. We must assume ownership that darkness is the absence of light. Thus, darkness will not be dispelled until we remain in a posture of seeking God for creative ways we can exist – without compromise as lights in a dark world.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
3. Should we ask the world to forgive us for NOT BEING A SWEET AROMA?
Have you ever caught the scent of a nice smelling cologne or perfume as the person wearing it passes you? But on the other hand, have you also sampled some really bad ones? So, which one are we? When someone “of the world” is in our presence, how do they respond to our aroma? Are we head-turners? When they smell our lives, does it linger in a good way? Do they stop to ask, what are they wearing?
Unfortunately, many us who are wearing the scent of Christ, have blended our lives so much with the world that it’s become increasing difficult to distinguish His aroma from the aroma of the world. We must strive to develop an others may, but we may not posture. This is when others decide to indulge in Christian liberties but we don’t. It is when those gray areas of the faith are no longer gray—they have become distinctly black and white. No pun intended. We must become peculiarly different from the world – to stand out from the world. We must become aromas of life or aromas of death – not only in word but also in deed. Aromas that are attractive because they smell so much better than what others are wearing around us. An aroma that’s life changing to those we encounter.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:14-16
4. Should we ask the world to forgive us for NOT LOVNG ONE ANOTHER?
One thing our current climate has avowed to the world is that we (the Church) don’t like each other that much. From social media posts to blogs to sermons to protests, it is obviously clear that we struggle with getting along as one big happy family. We can justify our reasoning nevertheless, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth still speaks… So, imagine with me. If you were an orphan (non-believer) seeking, waiting to be adopted by a family, would you personally choose our family (the Church)?
We are so dysfunctional – and it has to end, now! We are commanded to love each other, not to publicly humiliate or combat each other. We are literally taking our cases before the unrighteous under open-air courts, behind a screen on social media, through open letters and more – this is already a defeat for us (1 Corinthians 6:1-9). We must learn that in our unhealthy public battles we are far from defending the cross of Christ but closer to defaming His name to a world who needs Him more than ever. We are to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3)! This does not mean we will not disagree -we will, this is what families do.
Love tells the hard truth – but does it respectfully (Romans 12:17). Love always maintains a correct estimate of oneself – you don’t know everything – and you can be wrong (Romans 12:3). But healthy families, in their most heated moments always seek to protect and preserve the family unit. If we say, we are disciples of Christ, it is time to start acting like it. This proves to the world the amazing love 0f God which they desperately need, now!
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In summary, family of God, it’s time to kiss and make up!
Now, I know within our big family there will be many who disagree with me. It’s fine. But can we all agreed to forgive each other as He has forgiven us? This applied effort towards internal forgiveness expresses to the world we have our house in order. Ending our public and private family feuds exclaims to the world that restoration of the House of God has begun. After we get our personal houses in order and the houses of God we represent in order, we should strongly consider movement towards publicly asking the people in our own part of the world for forgiveness. If you have publicly misrepresented the family of God in any way, by the same measure, I would suggest publicly asking your readers, your listeners to forgive you. This practical step of humility helps reestablish our responsible calling as change agents, willing to be used as salt, light, and sweet aromas who love each other as undeniable disciples of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I would like to begin with a personal step today. So, on behalf of the Body of Christ – the Church, I would like to say with great humility to those of the world, who struggle to believe in our Lord, and to those who have walked away from the faith because of us. If I or we have hurt you, delayed your healing in any way and dishonored our Lord before you thus causing you to reject His undeniable love for you, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to publicly ask you to please forgive us.