Jon “Bones” Jones, the youngest UFC World Champion ever, and one of the greatest pound for pound fighters in history was scheduled to be fighting this weekend at the historic UFC 200 event. However, due to testing positive to a banned substance, he could be facing years on the sidelines. Jones, a vocal Jesus follower, who already has a shady past, was already on the comeback trail after being banned in 2015 in relation to a hit and run that he was charged with.
Social media is a buzz with many people completely fed up with Jones. Dana White, the UFC boss is besides himself. “You’ve already been through this history of just absolute madness. Why would you do this? Forget doing it to us… why would you do this to yourself? You’re a grown-up!”
How often do we feel the exact same way about someone else that you know? Perhaps you feel like Peter who asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Peter thought 7 was a good number but Jesus said seventy seven. The point being, Jesus had no limit on how many times we should forgive someone, instead we should continually display an attitude of forgiveness.
We often think that forgiveness is dependant upon behaviour. If that person does this or says that then we will forgive them. Or if we do what God says, then He will forgive us. In fact, many churches teach that if we repent and believe then God will forgive us – as if it is a check list we need to complete before God will change His mind about us.
But as we look throughout the gospels we see that Jesus, who by the way is the exact representation of God the Father, forgives people before they even ask! The woman caught in adultery, the man lowered down through the roof, the prodigal son to name just a few. But the point is this, God freely forgives. We are forgiven before we ask.
God sees relationship as the reward of forgiveness. The reason He is forgiving is because He values relationship above behaviour. To Him, justice is not people “getting what they deserve”, it is the world being made right. God created us for the Garden of Pleasure. (Eden) Humans walking with God, in joyous friendship. That is what God wanted. That is what we are created for and that is what justice looks like. This is why Jesus did not describe salvation as escaping punishment or going to Heaven. Rather He described it as knowing God. It’s us being reconciled to Him – how it should be.
Repentance is us changing our mind – not God changing His. True repentance and belief is the method of realising and receiving all that God has for us. It is changing our mind to agree with Him. And the gift He has for us is eternal life – that we may know Him! When we repent and believe we are agreeing to be reconciled to Him. God is holding out His hand to all people. The question is whether we ignore it or grab it! Repentance is a decision whether we accept this precious gift that God has given to every single person on the face of the planet. 1 Timothy 4:10 says it this way, “God is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Jon “Bones” Jones may not be fighting on the UFC 200 card anymore. But I wonder if he, like many others, is fighting negative thoughts, deathly self talk and the wicked opinions of those that are plastered across his instagram feed. Many people go through life feeling guilt and shame for their behaviour. They believe that their behaviour will alienate them from their friends and families, and even God.
But the good news is that,
“Christ is reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
If we are serious about the renewing of our mind, and living as Christ lived, then we must live with an attitude of continual forgiveness. We must value relationships above behaviour. We must love and accept people regardless of who they are or what they have done. We must forgive before people they ask us, say sorry or prove to us that they have turned the corner. Loving acceptance is powerful and will heal peoples hearts and change their behaviour. We demonstrate the gospel inside the relationships that we have. Just as we forgive you the Father forgives you. In fact, you are forgiven before you ask. And just as we want to be friends, God wants to be friends. Come back to God, He does not hold your sin against you.
Jon “Bones” Jones is forgiven.
He is forgiven before He even asks.
Just like you and me.