by Beverly Kay
Over the summer months I have been wrestling with a concept that is very prevalent in current secular thinking, trying to see if it matches up with Biblical Truths regarding the power of forgiveness. The concept that I am grappling with is that of forgiving ourselves. As people in our world strive to deal with guilt or self-loathing, very often they are encouraged to not be so hard on themselves, after all being human means making mistakes. Nobody is perfect, so they are told to simply forgive themselves and move on. Somehow, this teaching just doesn’t sit right with me. It seems to smack of self justification. If I have the power to forgive and justify myself, then I don’t need a Saviour to pay my debt and to reconcile me with my Maker. As I have searched scripture there seems to be only two types of forgiveness mentioned.
The first is the forgiveness that comes from God Himself, made available to us through the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus our Lord. We receive this forgiveness when we agree with God about two things. First we must agree with God that our action or attitude is truly sinful, it has broken the law of God and it bares the weight of penalty. This is just as real in our lives as breaking a traffic law and having to pay the fine. If we lie, or steal, or covet, or walk in pride, etc. then we are guilty of sin. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23) Secondly, we must agree with God that the penalty for our sin has been paid for, that the death of Christ on the cross is sufficient payment for our sin. It is in agreeing with God that we are forgiven, cleansed, made new because of the gift of grace offered to us in Christ Jesus. In receiving this gift of Grace we find freedom from guilt and condemnation that had been ours because of sin. That is the good news of the Gospel that Paul shares in Romans 8:1&2, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” We cannot short cut to forgiveness of self. We have no authority apart from Christ Jesus to be set free from the law of sin and death put in place by God in the garden.
The second form of forgiveness comes only after we have received the first. This is the authority in Christ Jesus to forgive others who have sinned against us. As children of God, through our faith in Christ Jesus (John 1:12), we are to become like our Heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:1&2). As we live out this life of love, we are called to be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As God’s children we are to extend to others the same grace and mercy that we have received from our Father. We cannot absolve someone else of their sin, but we have the joy of refusing to hold their sins against them, extending to them love rather than seeking revenge or hating them in our hearts.
It is so easy to allow the subtle twisting of God’s truth by the world to enter into our thinking and our council of others. Let us strive to remain in alignment with the truth of scripture, and remember there is only One who has the power to forgive, and that is God Himself. It is only by His power at work in us that we have the authority to forgive others, and to revel in the joy that comes as we receive freedom from our sin through faith in the work of Christ Jesus on the cross!