Icebreakers are perhaps the most powerful of all ships. But by no means are they the largest. With the combination of powerful engines and a purpose-built hull, they can break through vast sheets of ice. In other words, they make a way where there seems to be no way. That ability to powerfully breakthrough is like the power of forgiveness.
For the next seven weeks, we’re going to plow into the topic of forgiveness. Many of you discovered Lambchow through our Bible study on forgiveness. That little study has impacted thousands. But there is also more to discover about forgiveness. Today, we’re going to explore the power of forgiveness.
The primary power of forgiveness is breaking through walls of separation. Guilt, shame, and offense create and strengthen the walls separating us from God and others. Justice, fairness, and fear are the mortar keeping them in place. Someone wrongs us, we fear they may do it again. Because of that wrong, we feel they justly owe us something in return. It’s only fair that they repay us for the real or felt wounds their thoughts, words, or actions inflicted on us. Until we are satisfied, a wall stands, partly out of fear of reoccurrence and partly out of our pain. It is a strong wall that is not easily breached.
The wall itself is amoral, neither right nor wrong. Before Christ, a wall of righteous justice stood between us in our sin and God. Paul identified this with the ultimate separation, death. “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14, NASB95)
God’s justice prevented us from drawing near to Him. An impenetrable wall destroyed and canceled by forgiveness through the Cross of Christ. Or, as James puts it, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The President of the United States has two options when they wish to right a wrong of our justice system. They can commute the sentence, essentially saying enough is enough, freeing them from prison. Their conviction stands, but they are no longer paying the penalty for their wrong. Presidents can also pardon. A pardon is a complete nullification of a conviction. Legally, it’s as if they didn’t do it. Christ’s forgiveness does not commute our sentence, we are fully pardoned and forgiven in Him.
In a practical sense, that same power of forgiveness is available to break down walls of separation between individuals, communities, tribes, and countries. In a way, justice is never satisfied. The stain remains even after the debt is fully paid unless forgiveness intervenes. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB95) Not only does forgiveness remove the penalty, but it removes the stains of shame as well.
The impossible is possible through the power of forgiveness. Sturdy walls of separation are broken and canceled through it. Ways are created where no way existed before because of it. Unsolvable problems are solved by it. Indelible stains of shame and guilt are forever washed away. Forgiveness is not weakness, as some suppose, but it is like a powerful icebreaking ship plowing through the arctic icepack.