Several years ago I was taking a graduate theology class with other Adventist pastors. One day, as we discussed the subject of grace and forgiveness, another pastor shared his most personal story.
He came home from work one evening to hear his wife tell him that she was leaving him for another man. Dazed and reeling, the pastor had suddenly lost the love of his life.
Over time, the pastor’s heart found healing, and he married a second wife.
But then the twist. The pastor received a phone call from his first wife asking for forgiveness for what she had done. Also on the phone call was her husband, who also asked for forgiveness. While it was too late to turn the clock back, the couple wanted to repent of their sins.
The couple then asked for something more. They asked the pastor if he would rebaptize them.
A few weeks later, on a Sabbath morning, the pastor stepped into the waters of baptism with his former wife and the man she had left him for. One at a time, the pastor placed his hands on their backs and lowered them into the cleansing waters of forgiveness in Christ.
What kind of love is this? What kind of grace?
During the past year, I’ve been working on a book on the story of redemption—our relationship with God from Genesis to Revelation. What surprised me as I moved through the Scriptures is that the story of redemption isn’t just about our relationship with God. It’s about our relationships with one another.
In the Old Testament the stories leap from the pages. Esau forgives Jacob. Joseph forgives his brothers. And of course, Hosea and Gomer.
Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that God cares about our relationships with each other. As parents, how do we feel when our kids don’t get along?
If there’s any doubt from the Old Testament about how much God cares about our relationships with each other, all doubt is removed in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus spoke the well-loved words “For where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matt. 18:20, NIV), He wasn’t talking primarily about corporate worship (Jesus doesn’t need a minimum of two or three people to be with us). He was talking about reconciliation—about believers in conflict coming together in His name.
In the verses leading up to Matthew 18:20, Jesus said: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along . . .” (verses 15, 16, NIV). Jesus cares so much about our relationships with one another that He promises to be with us when we come together in His name, to forgive as we also have been forgiven.