In Destroyer of the Gods, Larry Hurtado seeks to explain why an increasing number of people converted to Christianity in the Roman world, even though it was the most persecuted of all religions and carried significant social cost. But Hurtado speaks of the unique Christian social project -a unique kind of human community that defied categories then and will still do so today.” lt has at least five elements that could be broken down and expounded at greater length, but which also need to be seen together, as they constitute a whole. The early church social project was:
Multi-racial and multi-ethnic
Highly committed to caring for the poor and marginalized
Non retaliatory, marked by a commitment to forgiveness
Strongly and practically against abortion and infanticide
Revolutionary regarding the ethics of sex
The early Christian community was both offensive and attractive. But believers did not construct their social project in some strategic way to reach Roman culture. Each of the five elements was there because Christians sought to submit to biblical authority.
Forgiveness also restores the standard in our lives. I remember one time when our kids were all teenagers. I became angry with Kathy in front
of them and then treated her disrespectfully. The next day I gathered the kids together in the front room and asked Kathy and each of the kids to forgive me. They all did, and we went on with our day. About a week later one of our boys came in the kitchen and started being sarcastic with Kathy. I walked in and told him that he didn’t have permission to talk to my wife like that.
He said,”You were rude to Mom the other day yourself!” I said, “Yes, but you forgave me. Forgiveness restores the standard.
When you forgave me, you gave away your right to act that same way because your forgiveness restored me back to the place of honor. I
repented. Repentance means, “to be restored to the pinnacle, the high place.”
He told his mother that he was sorry and she forgave him. If we don’t understand this principle, then the lowest point, the worst mistake, or the stupidest thing we have ever done in life becomes our high watermark. For instance, if we were immoral as a teenager and later on in life we have teenagers ourselves, we won’t have confidence to correct them for their poor sexual choices because we failed ourselves. Failures we have repented of are no longer the standard that we must bow to. When we asked God and those we have hurt to forgive us, we were set back up to the high place that God assigned to us. Otherwise, the worst day of our life becomes the highest place that we have the right to lead others to. The truth is that forgiveness restores the standard of holiness in us and through us.
Forgiveness I came to see is about cleaning up the memory by renouncing and flushing vengeful feelings about other people. Forgiveness is about surrendering the right for vengeance and retribution. It is about acknowledging that we are all failures in one way or another and that we stand on level found with any offender before the cross, where God in Christ forgave us. None us has a claim to superiority over any other in God’s presence. Forgiveness is in part, facing that hard reality.
If you spend your life full of recriminations and bitterness, then you’ve failed yourself, failed the surgeons and nurses and everyone else, because you aren’t giving anything back. Hatred can consume you and it’s wasted emotion.