By Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew
Originally appeared in Buckner’s Advent Guide.
Our culture is quick to dismiss others. Social media is filled with “cancel culture.” If someone does something unacceptable, social media becomes enraged and the demands to end the individual’s career ensues. This boycott includes shaming individuals, slamming their reputation, and negating anything they have ever done that may have been positive. Even after a person apologizes, if the apology does not contain key elements to the satisfaction of the audience, the person is dragged continuously until the next person is identified for breaking the rules. There are behaviors that are reprehensible and deserve to be called out. As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak out and address those societal ills that plague our communities, keeping people from living the abundant life God desires for each of us. That is not the issue. The real challenge is when a person seeks to change, sees the fault or failing and decides to change and that we become judges in their return to restoration. We deny them forgiveness and forget our own shortcomings, faults, and failures. In essence, we deny them the opportunity to receive love.
I am so glad that we serve a God who forgives us repeatedly. In Matthew 18:21-35, Christ answers Peter who asks, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus tells a parable about a man in a position of power who forgave his servant. Yet, when the servant was given the opportunity to do the same for someone else, he forgot how he had been forgiven previously. Jesus answered Peter, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” Forgiveness is ongoing and is rooted in love. It is accepting that we all fall short of the glory of God and that as long as we are on this earth, we will make mistakes. In the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others. Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Forgiveness is love. Forgiveness is about loving others even when they do not deserve it. Forgiveness is about loving ourselves enough to be freed from the chains of anger and hatred. Forgiveness is about obedience to God and loving Him through our actions because He continues to give us another chance.
The ultimate love was demonstrated on the cross. While Jesus hung on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) On the cross, out of love and obedience, he forgave us. Even in our sins, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The ultimate love was demonstrated in the birth of Jesus so that we would have the opportunity to have eternal life. His birth not only demonstrates hope and possibilities but reminds us that God gave his only son so that we could be blessed with the Kingdom of God. Instead of allowing us to die in our sins, dismissing us for not getting it right the first time (or even the thirtieth time), God loves us so much that He wanted a path for us to be reconciled with Him and that path was through the life and death of Jesus.
As we go through this season, I hope that we are extending the love, grace, and mercy that Christ has given to us to one another. If we are to show the world the love of Christ, it begins in how we love one another (John 13:35) and our willingness to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
Christmas is the gift of love through the forgiveness of our sins.
Christmas is a reminder of our redemption.
Christmas is restoration.
Christmas is reconciliation.
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is a Buckner International Board Member and currently serves as Vice President of Community Affairs and Strategic Alliances for the State Fair of Texas. She is the author of three books and the host of a podcast for women, The Tapestry.