“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:36-41.
Peter is telling these people, some of whom were demanding the crucifixion of their Messiah, that they will be forgiven if they repent. And not only that, but they will be given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that this promise is extended far into the future to all their descendants. It is the exact opposite of digging up past sins of yours, and those of your ancestors, and extracting some kind of payback.
The concept of “Pay It Forward” is one where you repay a favor by doing a favor for someone else, and tell them to return that favor to yet someone else. This idea has been written about long before the 2000 movie of the same name, in which a boy launches a movement as part of a class project in which the good deed is to be repaid to three new people. Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even coach Woody Hayes were proponents of the idea. It’s actually a microcosm of the Gospel. Like when Peter was forgiven by Christ, received the Holy Spirit, and paid it forward to 3000 people on the Day of Pentecost.
During these times of accusation, recrimination, and manipulation, let us remember that we can be free of this bondage by insisting on our freedom in Christ. Then we can pay it forward by telling others that God is not holding their sins against them, and that they are also free.