After my 6 year old says says he’s sorry for hurting his little sister in some way, I often hear him tell her to say, “I forgive you!” Sometimes she says it, and sometimes she doesn’t, but my son will usually continue to insist that she say this until she either says it, or until we tell him to stop repeating himself.
I wish I could tell the same thing to people I’ve sinned against over the years.
I wish I could somehow force forgiveness out of all the people that I’ve offended, all the people I’ve hurt, all the people whose faith I’ve hindered because of my sins. My past sins often haunt me. Even though I know I’m forgiven in Christ, and that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” I can’t help but worry about the long term hurts I’ve caused for others. I’ve reached out to many of them and asked for forgiveness, even years after the offense. Some have forgive me, others have simply ignored my request.
I can’t force people to forgive me. And at times, I have felt that I’ve been beyond forgiveness. I suppose we should all feel that way, though. If we felt we deserved forgiveness, then it would not truly be forgiveness.
Forgiveness cannot be bought, or earned. It can only be given out of grace.
Many people today believe they are beyond God’s forgiveness. That they’ve sinned too greatly, or too often, and that they haven’t redeemed themselves before God through good works. And our response is usually that this is simply not true, that nobody is beyond forgiveness. What we mean is that God is full of grace, and that no sin is too great.
But I think maybe in saying that nobody is beyond forgiveness, we minimize the weight of sin, and minimize the gulf created between us and God because of our sin.
Instead, maybe we ought to say, “You’re right. You are beyond forgiveness, because there’s nothing you can do to make up for what you’ve done. Yet God will forgive if you turn to Him. Because God is full of grace.”