Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or
foe as from our own; Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love
which is forgiveness.
– Reinhold Neibuhr
I may or may not use this in my sermon for this coming Sunday (at our Welcome Table service), but for me it is certainly a provocative quote. Forgiveness is the way our faith, hope and love are embodied in our lives. This was, at least true for Jesus, and it should be true for his followers as well. Forgiveness is also how mercy and grace are in evidence in and through us.
One possible text for Sunday is John 9:8-10 – verses not used in the Revised Common Lectionary at all (a crying shame if you ask me). Here we find Jesus showing mercy and grace to a woman caught in adultery and facing the “stoning squad.” “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her, “Go and leave your life of sin behind.”
Leaving behind our own “lives of sin” is possible only if we experience forgiveness of the magnitude that Jesus offered that nameless woman so long ago. It is only possible if we have tasted grace and felt mercy. And once this has happened to us, we have no choice but to offer the same to others.