When I awoke this morning, I felt free of the burden of anger. I had purged myself of the pain my lost love inflicted upon me and I welcomed the day with renewed hope. Not of the revival of a relationship. No, that proverbial ship has sailed. Rather I am hopeful that what I have learned from my recent experiences will paint a brighter picture than I had ever imagine for my life.
I can’t help but wonder if this is how God felt the day His Son bore humanity’s sin for all time. His wrath had been poured out and all creation stood before Him, forgiven. Though we were not yet repentant, God had freed Himself of the burden of the pain mankind inflicted, and we could now come to Him freely to obtain that forgiveness by confessing our sins and apologizing for what we have done.
Christianity is so often influenced by the world that we don’t see their affect on us until it becomes blatantly obvious. Greasy grace is one of those areas where our senses have become dulled by the world. They want us to be wholly accepting of them without them ever having to acknowledge wrongdoing, but that isn’t how God cast that mold. Yes, He has forgiven us, but we must still come to Him to admit our faults and failures before that forgiveness is manifest in our lives.
We must forgive people of the wrong they have done so that when they come to us and apologize for their offence, we accept their admission as a debt that has also been paid. But that admission must happen. The offence must be addressed. And in instances where the offence isn’t understood by the offender, it is our responsibility to explain it and its consequences. That is also something that God has demonstrated time and again.
You can think of it as an ultimatum if you so choose, but when God warns us of the consequences of sin (and only God gets to define what offends Him, not humanity), He is doing so because He wants us to understand how our choices will affect our lives. That’s true grace. You can be offended by that and say, “God would never do that to me,” but that doesn’t change the fact that He has already shown us how it works – and God doesn’t change.
Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” (NKJV)
James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (NKJV)
We experience time in a linear fashion. He is outside of time. He had the ability to see the moment we would approach Him in humility and ask to be forgiven. He went before us and accepted our admission of guilt as a debt that has been paid in full by His Son. But we still have to come to that point on our own to be forgiven of our past sin. Because we live in linear time, we can only obtain forgiveness of what we have already done – past tense. We cannot be granted forgiveness of what we have not yet committed because there is nothing to confess yet. The commission of sin is a prerequisite to the repentance and absolution of it.
Romans 3:23-26 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (NKJV)
The future commission of sin is not yet forgiven in our life experience. Only God has seen that future moment in our lives and gone before us to clear the way for us to be reconciled to Him. That is His ability and it demonstrates His grace. But from our perspective, that place in time doesn’t exist for us yet, therefore we cannot obtain the absolution that is patiently awaiting our contrition.
We all know the most famous verse from the Bible, John 3:16. But, almost in the same breath, Jesus followed that by saying this:
John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NKJV)
In order for forgiveness to take hold, offence must be addressed. That is what God did to Jesus on the cross. Multiple verses in the Bible infer that God poured out His wrath upon His only Son in order to secure forgiveness and salvation for all mankind.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (NKJV)
Romans 5:8 & 9 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (NKJV)
To really drive this point home, let’s look at forgiveness in different terms. You are standing in a room with a door. On the other side of the door is the Father. He holds in His hands, a gift. You can’t see the gift, but it is there. You can’t enjoy it, but you could if the door was opened. The door is locked, but there is a key. The room is symbolic of our experience of life inside the confines of time. The door is symbolic of this present moment. God, who is outside of time, stands ready to receive you into His presence. The key that opens that door so you can receive His gift is repentance. The gift you receive immediately upon opening that door is forgiveness.
And that cycle never ends as long as we are alive.
Every offence we commit must be addressed. In order to address them, they must be called out. Whether by willful admission or revelation by confrontation of another. The world calls this judgement – God calls it grace. God clearly defines what offends Him in His word. As the offenders, we don’t get to do that.
In life, when someone offends you, you must call out the offence so that it can be addressed. If the offender answers the call, then the offence can be absolved through contrition. If the offender never acknowledges their offence, then the forgiveness that awaits them is never acquired.
Conversely, if the offender willingly admits guilt, but the person who was offended doesn’t accept it, then the unforgiveness of the offended becomes their own sin.
Matthew 6:14 & 15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (NKJV)
The reason for this is simple. We are commanded to forgive as we have been forgiven. Refusing to do so becomes a sin that we must confess and repent of before we can obtain our own forgiveness. And since one of the sins that we have committed is unforgiveness, we must forgive the one who offended us by accepting their remorse.
I realize that this may seem like I have taken something simple and overly complicated it, but as a recovering technical writer, please understand that I am trying to outline the process like a manufacturer writes their product assembly instructions. Sure, the exploded view may make forgiveness look like a spiritual Rube Goldberg experiment, I know, but some people – like myself – think this way and can better grasp the concepts of our Christian walk through logical exposition.
If you’ve ever known anyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you know that what seems simple and obvious to most people usually escapes the mind of an Aspie. More often than not, it’s the complicated things that grab our attention, and God wants us to understand His ways too.
God bless, and thank you for reading.
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