I love the idea of the church being a community of the forgiven. The truth which is bandied about – and which I used to see on bumper stickers – of Christians being ‘not perfect, just forgiven’ makes me cringe because it is so often seen as an excuse for our own hypocrisy. At the same time however, there is a freedom and attractiveness about the fact that we can be part of a community that genuinely cares. Larry Crabb calls it the safest place on earth and that’s exactly what the church is called to be.
This is the ideal vision of people of faith – a place where you can be yourself, warts and all, and you are still accepted for who you are because if you have done some bad stuff in your life, then we have too, and chances are it is worse.
A community of care is a place of forgiveness, and forgiveness is healing. I am reminded of U2’s White as Snow in which Bono sings,
‘Once I knew there was a love divine. Then came a time I thought it knew me not. Who can forgive forgiveness when forgiveness is not? Only the lamb, as white as snow’
As individuals, purity is our ultimate destiny, and we will never be satisfied until we’re there. I don’t mean purity just in the sense of sexual behaviour, although that is a crucial part of purity. By purity, I mean a Christlikeness, having the mind of Christ within us day by day. While we’ll never reach that state this side of death, He still came that we might have life and have it to the full. That life has already begun. When we surrender our lives to Christ, asking that His will be done and not our own, it is then that we become a part of, as distinct from ‘apart from’, and we can hopefully experience, in a loving community, a little bit more of what it is to be part of the community of the forgiven.