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That thought prompted some other thoughts related to what I had read earlier this morning. I am working myway through the Sermon on the Mount, much of which is recorded in Matthew 5 through 7. Other parts of the Gospels record smaller sections of these famous teachings of Jesus. Among the things that struck me this morning was Luke 6:37b which says: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
What I read from the Gospels dovetailed with a chapter from Max Lucado’s book, Before Amen, this week's assigned reading for the gals from my Book Club. Lucado wrote about the importance of confession, of the dangers of being defensive about our sins and denying them, or of being defeated by our sins by holding on to the guilt and shame and allowing it to define who we are. Jesus came to remedy the problem of sin and guilt. He came to carry it away through His death on the cross. He came to forgive.
My conversation with my neighbour about washday reminded me of another aspect of Monday mornings in the “old days.” The race was not simply to be the first one with the wash on the line. It was also to see who had the whitest whites. Pity the poor woman whose clothes looked dingy as they flapped in the breeze under a revealing sun.
Many of us are familiar with the phrase to “air our dirty laundry.” No one wants that kind of exposure—except God. When we go to Him to describe our sin and to ask Him for forgiveness, we “air our dirty laundry.” He wants us to do that as a first step. We admit what we are and embrace the mercy and grace that He freely gives us in exchange. Our dinginess becomes His “whitest of whites.” Isaiah said it well when he wrote: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
This short phrase from Luke also reminds us that forgiveness is not only vertical—between us and God—but it is also horizontal—between us and others. The Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (vs. 12). Immediately after the prayer Jesus added this codicil: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (vss. 14, 15).
Sometimes confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness from God is hard. Oftentimes being forgiving is just as hard. But an unforgiving spirit is a sin and we cannot expect to be forgiven if we harbour a sin we are not willing to give up, whatever that sin might be. In Matthew 10 Jesus gives His disciples instructions as they go out on their mission trips. In the course of these instructions he says: “Freely you have received, freely give” (vs. 8). These words give us an important clue as to how forgiving and being forgiven works. Christ offers forgiveness freely. We need to do the same.
On this Monday morning as the sun shine brightly and is reflected off the pristine whiteness of the snow, I remember past laundry days. One of the other special moments of those days was how the clothes smelled when they came off the line. They were not only white, but the smell was the best in the world. It's a package deal.
God gets glory from bestowing on us His “whitest of whites” as He hears us and forgives. God gets glory when we forgive others and embrace them with that same sweet-smelling freshness of forgiveness.