Since forgiveness is the cornerstone of Christianity, it’s important to understand both the meaning of a cornerstone AND what forgiveness truly is.
A cornerstone is the primary stone that sets all angles and levels for the rest of the structure. If that cornerstone is off at all, that will show itself in the rest of the structure as it is built upon that stone. With a brick structure, if you get to a point and realize the lines are off, you either shimmy other stones which will reduce the overall integrity of the structure, or you start over. This is why the cornerstone is so critical to the rest of the structure.
Forgiveness is that cornerstone to Christianity. If you don’t truly understand forgiveness, there is no possible way to build a Christian faith without it. Now this first section may sound a bit like a double standard on the concept of forgiveness, but hold on. If you stick with the full story, we’ll bring it around.
There is a great parable that Jesus tells in Matthew about what it is like to receive forgiveness but not give it. In this story, a master forgives a slave for a debt he could never repay in his lifetime. However that same slave was owed by another slave, a much smaller amount. Although the first slave had been forgiven much, he would not forgive his fellow slave of something much less.
So what is forgiveness? It means the slate is wiped clean as if the debt was never there to begin with. The ledger is not balanced with a payment, it is completely forgiven without any sort of string.
Here is where the potential double standard comes in. I don’t see how it’s possible for someone to claim to be a Christian (one who has been forgiven everything) and not turn around and forgive others. Someone who doesn’t show forgiveness can’t possibly know the Christ that I know. (Don’t lash out at me yet… keep reading)
You see, Jesus also said that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) So if you don’t forgive, how can you have love. If you don’t love, how can you be His disciple?
The truth is, this is where the beauty of Christ’s love actually shines. Accepting the loving sacrifice of Christ as our complete and total forgiveness, does not make us perfect, just forgiven. We still screw up. Jesus even predicted the ultimate insult would come from one of His closest friends and disciples, Peter. “But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-62)
Despite Peter’s failure, Jesus forgave him. That forgiveness is for our past, present and future mistakes. This is where my human emotion from above (feeling that one who does not offer forgiveness can’t possible be a Christian) comes full circle. For although I don’t feel someone truly love Christ and accept His forgiveness without forgiving others, I also know that Jesus died for ALL. We have ALL come short, all have sinned and all need His forgiveness. That free gift is for all, even those who don’t seem to appreciate the gift.