The Thing About Forgiveness
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12
Years ago when I was coaching girls basketball, I was listening to them say the Lord’s Prayer together. Out of nowhere one word stuck out like crazy and I’ve never forgotten it . . . the word was “as.” It hit me that when someone says this prayer to God, they are asking to be forgiven by God with the same mercy and grace that they show to other people. I thought that was scary.
As I walk through this life, I see people who have been done wrong. I see people who have been hurt and wounded badly by the words and actions of others. So many have every right to be angry with this world and some of the people in it. But, if someone calls himself or herself a Christian, a forgiving attitude towards others is a must. If a person refuses to forgive, the Bible is clear that God will refuse to forgive them. Only God can give you a forgiving heart, you can never earn one by trying harder. The more you realize that you are loved by God, are forgiven by God, and the more you grow in God, forgiving others becomes quite natural and comes much easier.
Here is what brought this all back up: I can be brought to tears laughing at inappropriate stuff. Mike Tyson memes, Titanic jokes, and even jokes that make fun of famous people that really got hurt in the past can make me laugh so hard my side begins to hurt. So the other day, someone pointed out, “Adam, you are going to have to ask God to forgive you for laughing at that.” So, obviously, that was enough to send me soul searching and asking God what I needed to do about this.
I have looked at being forgiven by God in two ways. I pretty much lived the first half of my Christian life asking for forgiveness for everything. I was constantly going to the throne of grace and asking to be forgiven for lust, foul language, and lets just leave it at plenty of sinful behavior. At the same time, if people did me wrong, I expected them to apologize to me. I knew I’d have to forgive them if they asked, but they had sure better ask. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I forgave “as” I was forgiven. I had to ask God to forgive me all the time, so you had better ask me to forgive you.
A great shift happened after I had my own children. My kids do me wrong from time to time. I do them wrong and have often had to ask them to forgive me. One of them is very quick to forgive, the other not so much. Regardless of which one it is, when they ask me to forgive them, I always reply with “I’ll always forgive you,” or “you are always forgiven.” So when I brought this matter of my laughing at stuff to God, I felt like He said the same words to me that I say to my own children. I realized that He forgives me now the same way I forgive others. God is simply applying the Golden Rule with me.
I guess there is a time and place for the Christian to constantly be bringing sins to God and asking for forgiveness, but if we have placed our lives in His hands and are His children, is it so hard to believe that He is more forgiving with His children than I am with mine. No Christian that has lived for any amount of time after conversion has lived sinless. I certainly haven’t. That begs the question: does my heavenly Father want me asking Him for forgiveness constantly for everything? As long as my children love me, and even if they say they don’t, I don’t care if they ask for forgiveness. When they do, it just shows that they want to make sure our relationship is completely restored, is solid, and there is nothing between us that can separate us.
There was one particular sin that I asked Him to forgive me for years. YEARS! Now, I imagine that one of my own children sinned against me. What if they said to me, “Daddy, I’m sorry I did that, will you forgive me?” Now think if they did this every day for a year. I would constantly be saying, “Look, I forgave you the first time you asked, I forgave you before you asked, you are mine, you are always forgiven, I love you!”
If I’m just a regular old Joe and can learn to live, love, and forgive like this, why can we not look at the cross and be even more convinced of His love and His forgiveness towards His children? Live today like you are forgiven. If you are His, you are.