This is the eighth in a series about forgiveness. Click here to read the first post in the series.
Several years ago, my son and I had a very bad day. I’m not sure what started it, but I disciplined him for disobedience, he became more disobedient, so I disciplined him, and he reacted. We ended up yelling at each other. Recognizing that we were in a negative cycle, I said, “let’s run away together, and start the day over.” So we went off to Burger King, and had a great time, and forgave each other. On the way home, he, repentant, said, “I’m sorry, Mom.” I said, “I forgive you. I’m sorry too.” A minute or two later, he said, “I’m sorry, Mom.” “I forgive you.” Then again, “I’m sorry, Mom….Mom, I’m sorry….Will you forgive me, Mom?…I’m so sorry, Mom.” After several minutes and miles of this, I finally said in exasperation, “I forgave you the FIRST TIME you asked, and if you don’t quit asking me to forgive you, I am going to take back my forgiveness.” He protested, “You can’t take back forgiveness! Not forgiving is a sin!” I replied, “Then don’t cause me to sin by asking me AGAIN to forgive you WHEN I ALREADY DID, and cause me to take it back!”
I used to do this with God. When I did something wrong, I’d feel terrible, so I asked God to forgive me again and again and AGAIN. Sometimes I’d sit in a pit of depression and say, “I am a rotten Christian. I don’t DESERVE Your forgiveness. I deserve whatever punishment I get. Leave me alone.”
Then, after the very bad day with my son, I wondered if God ever gets tired of us asking Him over and over and OVER again to forgive us. I also consider that “DUH!” of course we don’t DESERVE forgiveness. We can’t EARN forgiveness by being good enough. (All our righteousness is like filthy rags, remember? Isaiah 64:6) This is why Jesus died on the cross–to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. When I refused to forgive myself, I was saying that I’m too bad to be forgiven, that His death wasn’t enough, that I wanted to pay for my own sins. I was, effect, calling Him a liar and throwing His very costly gift back into His face.
So I began to forgive myself.
This does not mean that I purposely sin and then “repent” and get forgiven, all the time planning to do the same thing (Romans 6:1-2). That’s not genuine repentance, that’s deception. But when I sin, I genuinely confess it, and then I believe that if I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me my sin, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. That’s the only way to accept His gift–by believing that what He says is true, and living as if it is.
I have gotten better at forgiving myself. I still struggle with it some but I keep reminding myself
to accept the gift of forgiveness that God has bought for me.
One more thing: we also have to forgive God. Now, God is righteous and without sin, so we don’t forgive Him for wrong-doing. Instead, forgiving God means releasing our anger toward Him when He doesn’t do what we wanted or expected Him to do. We release Him from our own expectations. We dump our anger, resentment, and wrong expectations in the same sort of way that we release others from not being or doing what we wanted.