The gift of forgiveness
February 18, 2013
by Pastor George Koivukangas, Laestadian Congregation of Cokato

Approximately 1 billion cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day, along with flowers, candy, and other gifts. Although the origin of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery, the tradition of remembering loved ones is commendable.

Love is important in human relationships. Jesus taught, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 14:33) Love is important in our homes, to our spouse, our children, and all dear ones.

The Bible instructs, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) A loving relationship between husband and wife brings great security to the children and the whole family. A loving, nurturing, and forgiving atmosphere at home is very important.

The circle of love expands greatly to include not only our near and dear ones. Jesus, in answering a question that a certain lawyer asked, said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mat 22:39) He also taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate your enemies. But I say onto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:43-44)

Jesus continued, in his answer to the lawyer, directing our thoughts to where our love is most important to dwell: “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and all thy mind.” (Mat 22:37)

God loves sin-fallen mankind. All have fallen short and are in need of His love, grace, and mercy, that He freely grants onto penitent ones.

Dear neighbor, you who may be struggling with trials of life, your sinfulness, your doubts, and many questions, God does hear your sighs and prayers seeking answers, hope, and forgiveness; just as he heard the prayers of Cornelius, who was looking for peace of conscience from his sins.

The Bible says of him, “A devout man, one that feared God with all his house, which gave many alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:2) One could think that these good traits merited salvation. They did not. Even when the angel of God appeared before him, he did not receive forgiveness of his sins, and the Holy Spirit.

Only when God sent his servant, Peter to preach the gospel onto him, saying, “And He commanded us to preach onto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick [living] and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all of them which heard the word.” (Acts 10:42-43)

Jesus yet freely offers the grace of forgiveness from his kingdom here upon the earth. He left that mission command onto His own: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)

Jesus yet encourages, “but rather seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added onto you.” (Luke 12:31)