Today (Ash Wednesday) is the beginning of the Lent season as we journey to the cross and ultimately Easter Sunday, where we celebrate that Christ is Risen from the Dead. It is through the cross that we can find redemption and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the act of reaching out to another who has done wrong to us to reestablish a broken relationship. I think the important part of this understanding of forgiveness is the part about the restoration of a broken relationship. Because when you stop to think about our broken relationships with other people, it is very seldom that there is a totally guilty party and a totally innocent party. Usually both participate in the guilt of the broken relationship. It is true that in the brokenness somebody has to initiate the reaching out for the restoration of a relationship and begin the process of healing, and eventually both have to reach out to the other.
Forgiveness, however, becomes real only when it is extended to others. Someone once put it this way, “In order for God to give me forgiveness, he has to come across a bridge. This is a bridge over which I have a measure of control. If I keep destroying that bridge in my relationship to others, there is no bridge there for God to cross to grant me forgiveness.” It is not that God does not want to forgive us, rather God cannot forgive us when our broken bridge or bitterness prevents it.
When we talk about God's love, there is that aspect of God's love that is always seeking to overcome brokenness both between God and ourselves and between ourselves and others and even within ourselves. According to scripture, forgiveness is rooted in the very nature of God. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19)."
One very important aspect of that love is that part that seeks to restore broken relationships.
I would like to rewrite that bumper sticker. It would go like this: "Humans aren't perfect, they are forgiven; Christians know and accept that forgiveness and extend it to others." The only problem is those bumper stickers are not big enough to handle that kind of message. But our lives are!