“Just Forgiven”

If you’ve ever taken the time to read bumper stickers on cars and trucks today, you will have been amazed, as I’ve been, at what seems to be a growing trend. It seems that no subject is too sacred or too private, and that anything can be said nowadays on a bumper sticker. Not only have the messages become more lawless and profane; but many of them are catchy “religious” slogans of the church world of today which uses bumpers for its bulletin boards. I saw one the other day which went something like this: “Christians; not perfect-just forgiven”. I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about this particular slogan with you.

In the first place, this statement does have much more to it than “Honk if you love Jesus!”, or some of the other blasphemous types like the one about the car being unmanned if the rapture occurs. These are not only ridiculous, but to me are sickening. In the second place, I was struck by the fact that the statement on the bumper sticker is basically true. After all, Christians are not as yet perfect on this earth, and we believe that they are surely forgiven. There were, however, many negative thoughts I had, and these prompted me to use this subject for this article.

First, the underlying message here seems to be, “Look! Christians aren’t perfect, and aren’t expected to be. We’re just forgiven”. Or, it seems to imply, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian, because we really aren’t that different from you”. And further, “We can have a good time in this world too, but we are forgiven. So don’t look down on us. Join our ranks! ”

Secondly, I don’t like the last part of the slogan, “Just forgiven”. The beautiful gift of God’s free grace to His chosen people is preceded by the adverb “just”. The word seems to give to forgiveness a casual flavor, the idea that forgiveness is not that much wonder, but is perhaps incidental.

I’m afraid that many of us, and especially we younger people, uncon­sciously share some of the attitudes portrayed by that bumper sticker. For example, we are sometimes afraid to let it be known that we are different in our life style, that we live antithetically in the world. We desire that others consider us to be among those who can live com­fortably with them, and that really we have few differences. I think that some­times we are ready to say to those about us that there are many similarities between us. We all have our pet sins and our weaknesses, and the only difference is that we are forgiven and you are not, we say to them. We certainly say this clearly when we join with worldly acquaintances in evil activities, and live as those who are characterized by Paul as men who “sin that grace may abound”.

We often forget, I think, that we are to strive for perfection. The Holy Scriptures proclaim to us that we are to be holy, for our God is holy. We are, as Rev. Hoeksema writes in The Triple Knowledge “imperfect, perfect Christians”. We are in principle perfect. Through Jesus Christ, sin has been made dead within us. We are born again and old things are passed away. When we live close to the world, we live far from God and that principle of the new life is not displayed in us when we fail to strive daily against evil. Read Rev. Hoeksema’s treatment of Lord’s Day 44, and read the epistles of John and Peter. You will find that there can be no concord between Christ and Belial, and that we are to strive to live lives which are sanctified.

Let us resolve together to work daily to know God better by studying His Word and by being constant in prayer. Let us live close to Him, antithetically, and work with all that is in us to live the life of thanksgiving to God for His forgiving mercy.