Christian Passover, Repentance, and Forgiveness
As we take the symbols of the bread and wine at Passover we are acknowledging our need for repentance and forgiveness. But it is not the radical mercy or unconditional forgiveness that some preachers promote. It is important to know what the scriptures say and thus avoid sloppy theology. We must be careful to avoid diminishing the importance of the blood of the covenant and our response of loving obedience to God. There is more to repentance and forgiveness than an emotional altar call. So what do the scriptures reveal?
Predestined and Adopted
Many mainstream Christians do not understand their covenant with God. But Paul clarifies the process. If called of God we are predestined and God’s plan for his adopted children has been pre-determined. God in his gracious favour has reached out to give believers a great blessing – to become his legal children and heirs.
How has he done this? When we were worthy of death and imprisoned by our sins, how were we given a pardon? The message of Passover is that the blood of our saviour, was the ransom that was paid to “buy us back.” Through this means all of our trespasses – deviations from the truth, errors, and faults – are forgiven. So we can be adopted into God’s family as legitimate children, living in covenant with our Father. But this is not the end of the story.
Jesus’ Message to the Forgiven
Forgiveness was a dynamic part of Christ’s earthly ministry and this part of his ministry continues today. As Isaiah had prophesied, the Messiah had come to announce the release of the captives. He would set-free the oppressed. This release was from both physical infirmity and spiritual blindness. And having been forgiven, and freed from our debt to God and others, Christ had some important advice for us. In order for God to continue to forgive us, we must also forgive others. We must not nurture resentment or anger, or allow bitterness over wrongs suffered to make us hard-hearted. Our willingness to forgive others when they ask for forgiveness, reflects God’s attitude. But, this is not “unconditional forgiveness.”
The Master will Settle Accounts
The parable of the master who forgave his servant the great debt of 15 years’ wages is instructive. Having been forgiven, was the servant compassionate when it came to others who owed him a debt?
One would think that would be the reasonable response. But God makes the point that he was a “wicked and contemptible”servant for he he had received mercy, but refused to extend the same mercy to others. So God would have us consider this question. Are we as merciful and forgiving as we ought to be, considering the debts we were forgiven?
Limits to God’s Forgiveness?
There can be no forgiveness without repentance. The father of the prodigal son did not go searching the bars and brothels for his son! But when the son “came to himself” and repented of his rebellious ways, then the Father was there to forgive and forget. We cannot continue in sin if we are children of our Father. So we must acknowledge our errors and turn from them in a true spirit of repentance. Only then can we be assured of God’s forgiveness.
Jesus’ saw the dilemma that the Pharisees faced. The sinners, the tax-collectors and prostitutes could readily admit their sins and truly valued the gift of forgiveness. The religious leaders, on the other hand, were self-righteous. Being either unable or unwilling to see their short-comings, they could not acknowledge their guilt. So they cut themselves off from the blessing of forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is not limited. But we can limit ourselves by not appreciating God’s gift, and being unwilling to repent.
Are we willing to confess our sins and make some needed changes in our lives? Do we value Christ’s sacrifice as our Passover “lamb” who was slain in our stead? Do we understand that he ransomed us from death? Do we appreciate the opportunity to be reconciled to our Father, and share in Christ’s inheritance? If we do, then we will repent and embrace God’s way of life. And God will forgive us of our trespasses against him, so we can walk in covenant with him. These are things we must consider as we prepare to observe the Passover.