. . . The gurarnetee to accept is to do so totally, without reservation. The guarantee to love calls us to love in every circumstance with no exceptions. The guarantee to forgive means that no matter how miserably someone fails or how blatantly they sin, God forgives them, and as he has done so our unreserved forgiveness is theirs for the asking without blame or retaliation.
David’s message reminded me of the book by Jerry Cook, entitled Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness, written back in 1979. Following similar themes to David on Sunday, Cook invites the reader to move past one’s initial impression of people and to see the image of God in every person. Every person is created in the likeness of God but it is often hidden in layers of trouble and poor choices. The church, he suggests, should be a place where those who are hurting, depressed or confused are accepted, helped, forgiven, loved and encouraged.
Too often churches find themselves judging rather than accepting others. Too often we are tempted to play God and condemn them for their mistakes and choices. But that is not our job. We are called to follow Jesus and continue his ministry. As John wrote, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). The reality is that we are all recipients of the ministry of Jesus. Without his acceptance, love and forgiveness there would be no church.
When I accept, love and forgive others I am doing no more than what God has already done for me.
When I accept, love and forgive others I am doing no more than what God has already done for me. As Cook suggests, “When love, acceptance and forgiveness prevail, the church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus was in the world: a centre of love designed for the healing of broken people and a force for God”.
I believe this is the kind of church God calls Hobart Baptist Church to be. David’s challenge reminded us of our strategic location on Elizabeth Street so close to central Hoabrt and the responsibility we have as Hobart’s city Baptist church. We live at an important point in the history of the church. We were challenged to offer a guarantee – that that all who enter the church receive acceptance, love and forgiveness.
It is a challenge not to be taken lightly and not just for those at Hobart Baptist, but is foundational for all Christians to being all we are called to be. May God grant us all the courage and strength to be that church of safe passage.
Stephen L Baxter