Just consider how angry some people get when they’re faced with minor inconveniences; such as their fast food order being wrong, or being cut off in traffic.
And there is the kind of un-forgiveness that can last for years—and even decades—when we hurt people in more serious ways...
We’re all sinners—and as such, we do hurt other people. Sometimes intentionally; sometimes by accident; or sometimes as the unintended consequence of some bad decisions.
And when we realize that we’ve hurt someone, the pain of guilt can be excruciating. Guilt tempts us into believing that we are the worst person in the world. It is as if you cease to be a person—and you become your worst sin.
(Someone who believes that they could never need someone else’s forgiveness would have no knowledge of this.)
It is very painful to admit to being responsible for someone else’s suffering.
Then when the people we hurt refuse to forgive us, our pain is multiplied. Guilt can have us feeling as though we’ve ruined their life.
At the same time, the person who refuses to forgive will never be fully healed of the wrong they’ve suffered.
If there does happen to be any forgiveness, it comes only after we “make amends” with the person we hurt. We must apologize, we must restore or compensate them for what we caused them to suffer. And we must do that on their terms—and to their satisfaction.
Yet even then, there is no guarantee that we will receive forgiveness.
Sometimes, the hardest forgiveness to get is forgiving from ourselves.
Yet God’s forgiveness is not incumbent on us making amends with God or striving (with all our might) to achieve some lofty level of holiness to become fit for heaven.
God’s forgiveness is without conditions. We don’t have to earn it; in fact, we don’t even have to ask for it. Forgiveness is a gift God gives to you.
This was the good news that John the Baptist was born to proclaim. Over and over again in the Gospels, we hear of John proclaiming “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Baptism is all about God’s forgiveness. When you are baptized, your sins are no longer part of you. Your past is no longer a part of you. God wipes the slate clean. And you are born again as a whole new person. You can approach the throne of God totally unafraid—because God has acted to make you clean. You can live your life with total confidence that you are saved.
The life that God intends for you is to experience God’s unconditional love with each new day. And though we sin every day, God is always calling us back to the baptismal waters where God will again make us clean, never tiring to forgive us.
Baptism is the sure sign that God is not holding our sins against us.
In baptism, everything changes. Our hearts are changed, our minds are changed, our destiny is changed...
What a delight it is to love a God who gives so much for us. What a delight it is to lay our lives in the hands of a God who gave his only Son for our redeeming. What a delight to obey a God who desires only good things for us.
God’s ways are certainly higher than humanity’s ways when it comes to forgiveness. Yet, when we receive forgiveness from someone else, we experience God’s forgiveness for ourselves. What a healing that forgiveness brings. What a healing that comes when the person we hurt can look at us with compassion and say “I don’t hate you. I wish you no ill. I will not hold against you the debt you owe me.” God’s forgiveness heals us just the same. Why should we live in a hell of fear and shame and regret? Jesus died to save us from hell. And Jesus saves us just the same from our sins and our bad choices.
Forgiveness truly is divine—for when we receive forgiveness, or when we give it, we are experiencing the gracious love of God for the world. And what a great witness to an unbelieving world—when we forgive unconditionally those who sin against us...
So go in peace today—because you are forgiven. Your sins have been washed away in a tidal wave of grace. You are freed from the past to walk with God into the future.