Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If there is ever a question striking fear into the heart of man, it's this: "Can you forgive me?"
What usually precedes the question is something that was hurtful, mean, uncaring, thoughtless, or just plain irksome.

For example, the wife comes home with a JCPenny bag filled with clothes -- blouses, skirts, etc. Just because the clothes in her closet are outdated, out of fashion, or tight doesn't mean she has a right to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes, does it? So, the husband, of course, points that out and, naturally, the wife is despondent and begins to get emotional. She says she'll take it all back; the husband tells her to keep it, and then someone ends up saying, "Can you forgive me?"

Or how about that call teenagers sometimes make: "Dad, I'm sorry. The car is totaled. I'm okay. Can you forgive me?" Dad says, "yes" -- all the time feeling guilty for being upset his car is totaled.

Then there are times of betrayal or a lack of trust: "I want a divorce!" "You're fired!" "I don't have confidence in you anymore." All these wreak havoc for a man. Then after a time, there may come the question: "Can you forgive me?"

And forgiveness can be a contingent thing, too. For some, it equates to permission giving. If I ask for forgiveness and you forgive me, it's okay. For some, forgiveness is forgetting. If I ask for forgiveness and you forgive me, you can never speak of the event again. For some, forgiveness is a tacit approval of future action. "Hey, I asked for forgiveness once, and you gave it to me. Why are you now hassling me about it again?"

Sometimes it's easier for a man to withhold forgiveness instead of trying to figure it what is meant. Sometimes a man has problems with forgiveness, since he himself often commits greater misdeeds. But that is not healthy.

We forgive because Christ forgives us. We follow His example. He paid the price for our sins. He instructs us to sin no more. He instructs us and reminds us of what forgiveness costs. He keeps on forgiving -- persistently forgiving. He offers His forgiveness freely and without any strings attached. It is a gift. Let us strive to forgive, even as Christ forgives us.

1 comment :

agedwirehead said...

Forgive: to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt (Oxford English Dictionary).

The person who was offended grants forgiveness to the person who has offended. The decision to do so is theirs alone. The mind and spirit of the offended person is profoundly affected by forgiving.

We focus on the offended, strongly suggesting that the problem is theirs rather than the offender's.

Apology: either 1) an expression of regret for having offended someone or 2) a strongly written defense of something believed in strongly.

OK, that definition causes some confusion.

Confession: either 1) an admission of misdeeds or faults or 2) a public declaration of one's faith.

More confusion! With all of the poor examples of public "apologies" in recent years, is it any wonder that we are confused about what to do about sin?

regret: feel remorse, feel sorry, be contrite.
remorse: feeling regret, sadness, remorse, contrition.
sorrow: an emotion of great sadness.
contrite: feeling or expressing pain or sorrow.

The way the words are defined result in our thinking this is all some sort of wishy-washy emotional stuff that we really don't want or need to worry with.

How sad.

Sin is real. It isn't just an emotional hurt. There are real consequences. We hide behind insurance, but loss hurts the insurance company, and all of its customers. We spread the consequences of sin to take away much of its sting. But sin is still real.

Hurt is real. A cut hurts. So does theft, burglary, deception, ... It isn't how we feel, it is a consequence of our action.

We feel better thinking other folks are sinning, too. Sin is not hidden by a mass of people. God knows each one of us by name. He knows us in complete detail: the sworls on or fingertips, the crook in our toe, and the blackness in our deepest soul.

When we sin:

1. We need to recognize it. Sin erects walls between each of us and between us and God.

2. We need to confess. Walls do not disappear by themselves. We act to confess: acknowledge sin, both to God and the person(s) offended.

3. We need to be contrite. This is sincere and complete remorse for what we have done. (contrite is from Latin contritus meaning "ground to pieces", that is crushed by guilt.) What good is feeling bad if we are not doing something about it?

4. We need to make restitution. We attempt to restore our victims to a "whole" state, making us aware and less likely to repeat our sin.

5. We need to repent. We must turn away from sin. Repenting isn't apologizing. It also isn't contrition. Nor is it confession. We work to stop sinning. We stop lying and we stop associating with others that lie. We stop drinking and stop associating with those who still drink.

6. We need to accept forgiveness. When someone grants you the free gift of full pardon, accept it. God grants full pardon for our sin. He does this out of His great love for each of us. Love Him with all of your heart, mind and soul.