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A Community of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 21

What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?

I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?

First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.

What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?

I believe that God, because of Christ’s atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in his grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.

 

A Community of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Saturday, May 20: Matthew 18:21-35

The chief characteristic of a Christ-centered, Spirit-driven Church is that she is a community of forgiveness. This foundational faith identity is also to be her foundational ministry practice. In fact, Biblical teaching inevitably moves from forgiveness to reconciliation. First, forgiveness means we are reconciled to the Father. He “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13-14). We once were alienated from God, but are now reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:21-22). Second, forgiveness means that we have been placed in the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:6), the covenant community that practices the life of forgiveness and reconciliation (Matthew 5:21-26, 6:14-15, Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 3:13). We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2) by living as devoted gospel servants of Christ (Romans 12:3-10, Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10) who serve to build His Church into greater maturity, life and joy (Ephesians 4:7-16). Next, forgiveness means we should seek to reconcile with the global Church. We are sisters and brothers who share a common bond in our blood-bought identity in Christ (Revelation 7:9-17). We are called to live in mutual support, encouragement and development (2 Corinthians 8-9). The key word is mutual. Every white-majority Church will descend into spiritual poverty if she is unwilling to become students of the ethnic-minority Church’s rich experience of God’s grace. Finally, forgiveness means we carry the “ministry of reconciliation” to the world (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), inviting every child, woman, and man into a life of repentance and discipleship with Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 2:37-47, Revelation 22:17). Those four themes describe the foundational ministry practice of a Christ-centered, Spirit-driven Church. Yet, our narcissistic and therapeutically-driven culture tells a different story. Forgive, we are told, and you will be set free from the prison of bitterness, the spirit of revenge, and the control of an ugly past. While this is true, it is truly incomplete. Jesus is the victor over the powers of evil, the eradicator of human brokenness, and the King who rules over our fallen creation. The Bible relentlessly invites us to take our eyes off ourselves, place them on Jesus, and join His gracious work of forgiveness and reconciliation. In fact, anything less is a distortion of Biblical truth. Let’s bear witness to Him who is still gathering his people “out of the entire human race...a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.” God is on the move. Will you join His work?

Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn