The Church: The Practice Field for Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a nice word, isn’t it? It brings up images of reconciliation, restored relationships, people getting along, and everyone being nice. If only it was that easy. Forgiveness is, quite honestly, hard work. It doesn’t always happen quickly, nor does it always happen easily. It takes a desire to get better at it. It is anything but natural for us sinful human beings. And yet it is crucial for relationships as well as a witness about the nature of the God who is committed to forgiving us. We can continue to grow in our ability to forgive. It takes practice. The church is precisely the place to do so. The church, you see, is the practice field for forgiveness.

Forgive me (haha!) for using a sports metaphor here, but I believe it makes a good point. Using American football as a “for instance,” there is the practice field, and then there is the separate, official game field. The practice field gets used to hone skills, learn plays, and repeat them until they are automatic. This practice field is where you make mistakes, try again, and work at each skill until you get them all right. Then you take those refined skills to the official field and see how well you do in the real situation of a game against another team that will test how well you’ve practiced your skills. Then you’re back the next week at the practice field honing, refining, and practicing your skills even further.

Forgiveness is one of the skills that we work on as disciples of Jesus. We do so because it’s central to our life in Christ. We do so because it is the foundation of our relationship with God. We do so because forgiveness is the nature of God who created us, gives us life, and who holds us in constant forgiveness. To understand anything about God—to have anything to do with love—we have to understand something about forgiveness.

So we work at it. Within the community of the church we can practice, hone, refine, and learn the ways of forgiveness. Here in the family of faith we make our mistakes, we try again, and we work at forgiveness of each other. As we try this skill out in the world around us, the official game field, we have our forgiveness skills tested. Sometimes we find that it’s harder than we thought. So we come back, again and again, to the church. For it is here, on the practice field, that we hear, learn, experience, try, and grow in our practice of forgiveness. Here forgiveness is granted to us over and over. And here we get to try it out on each other and see how it works.

Even on the practice field forgiveness can be difficult. It is still hard work. But the crucified and risen Christ who lives in and among us accomplishes it. Through Christ forgiveness is the nature of the church.

The next posting on this site will provide some practice skills we can work at to hone our forgiveness.

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Categories: religious, spiritual disciplines, spirituality | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Church: The Practice Field for Forgiveness

  1. Rob, thanks for the article. I have used the football image in my teaching as well. One reason is that both have a Sunday focus. In the NFL Sunday is “game day” and in the church community it is “church day.” But in reality, the two could not be more different and for the reasons you state. “Church day” (and all “churchy” activities on other days also) are really practice time. Together we practice seeing God, telling each other stories, praying, forgiving, etc. Then, practice time is over and it is out to the “real world” where it is always game day. Football players practice and prepare all week for three hours on Sunday. Christians practice and prepare for three hours each week for a game that is almost a continuous part of the rest of our lives. If only we can get people to be more serious about practicing when we are together so we are better equipped for the game of life that awaits when we head back out those doors! Thanks Rob!

    • I appreciate your comments, Dave. Rather than Sunday morning being the measure of “winning,” perhaps it should be thought of more as practice for the real game, “played” in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and social groups Monday-Saturday (and most of Sunday too!).

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