We all think forgiveness is a great idea. We just think other people should try it instead.
Let’s start with it from why forgiveness is so incredible. In “The Weight of Glory”, C.S. Lewis has an essay where he speaks of how when we often say “Forgive us our sins” to God, we really mean “Please excuse our sins.” There is a huge difference between the two and maybe one reason we don’t really appreciate forgiveness is that we do see it as excusing instead.
Now many times in a moment of weakness, some of us could succoumb to certain sins. Let me be clear on this also. If someone does succoumb to such a sin and asks forgiveness from the church, we need to forgive them and we need to keep in mind the biblical command of seventy times seven. However, we also need to be working with them to help them avoid that sin.
However, let us suppose we give in and confess to God. How many of us are prone also to explain why we did so? Lewis tells us that if there are circumstances that are extreme, God knows about them. He could not treat a sin for one the same as he would for another simply because of different temperaments. Why bother listing excuses though why God should just overlook the sin? Do we think we know one God doesn’t know?
God doesn’t overlook our sins though. We’d be grateful for just that if he did. However, he does something far better. He treats them as if they’re not there. He cleans the record entirely. He doesn’t hold a slate of our sins over our head and say “See? I’m just going to ignore this.” He takes the slate of our sins and dashes it to pieces.
It makes me wonder why I look at past sins as a reality that I still need to confess at times when I can picture God saying “Haven’t we already got past this?”
However, the hard part comes after God forgives us. We’re called to forgive others.
You mean if my ex who abused me asks for forgiveness, I’m to do it?
You mean my father who left me and Mom alone with all of my siblings? If he comes to me for forgiveness, I’m to do it?
You mean that drunk driver who killed my daughter in a car accident? If he comes to me for forgiveness, I’m to do it?
You mean my ex-boyfriend who slept with my ex-best friend? If he comes to me for forgiveness, I’m to do it?
Note this. I don’t think you should give forgiveness until they ask. I think you should be in a spirit of forgiveness though. Note also that forgiveness does not necessarily mean consequences of some sins go away. I think we should forgive someone in jail who repents, but that does not mean they don’t serve the time still. If that happened, we can be sure every prisoner in jail would “repent.” Keep in mind God did the same. He took away David’s sin, but David’s son still died.
Still, you are to forgive. If you don’t forgive, it is to be seen as a sign that you haven’t received forgiveness. Yes. They did something terrible. Yes. They deserve to suffer. Yes. You have all right to be angry.
But couldn’t God say the same to you?
And didn’t he forgive you?
Then you ought to forgive one another.