Two constant themes that can be found in the biblical tradition in all its diversity are that God is with us and God is for us. God desires to be in a constructive, healthy, redemptive relationship with human beings.
God is committed to God’s children, no matter how wayward we are and even before we change. Knowing this truth about God can keep us from despair when we finally have the courage to face our foibles and failures, sins and blunders head on. It can also prepare us for the necessary and inevitable suffering that we are all bound to experience and help guide us through the chaos and confusion of the tragic sense of life.
In the Gospels, Jesus spoke some hard words, preparing his disciples for suffering, opposition, and judgment. But he meant for these difficult words to be heard in the context of a loving relationship with God and with one’s sisters and brothers. Jesus makes clear that anyone who would be his disciple will undergo challenging circumstances and face hard decisions, but that God would always be with them and for them. Jesus emphasized through words and deeds that the kingdom of God is first and foremost about extending welcome to outsiders, grace to sinners, healing to the sick, peace to the alienated, forgiveness to all, and justice to the poor and downtrodden.
Every time God forgives us, God is saying that the relationship is what is most important. God uses our sins and sufferings to refine our characters and nurture our faith. But regardless of what progress we do or do not make, God never abandons the relationship. God is infinitely patient and welcomes small steps. God’s Spirit keeps wooing, drawing, convicting, and luring us into deeper reflection, intimacy, and love.
This is why forgiveness is so dominant and pervasive in the life and teachings of Jesus. There can be no healing, wholeness, renewal, and redemption without forgiveness. It’s our only way forward.
Whatever life throws at us, we can face it courageously, graciously, and gratefully, if we remember: God is with us and God is for us.