I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. [Psalm 32:5,7]
What a comfort to be found in these words. God is so good, and so big, and so lovingly merciful we are only required to confess our sin to receive forgiveness. Really, we are forgiven even before we acknowledge it. Actually, we were forgiven before we even committed the sin, because God planned us and our lives long before the world began. Isn’t that amazing? Millions of years ago, God already forgave me for a sin I may have committed this morning. Wow. Just think about that for a minute.
In human terms, forgiveness is difficult. It is difficult not only to offer another, but also as a concept in and of itself. I found several definitions when I looked up the word forgive. The fourth definition given in one of the dictionaries I consulted defines forgive as: to cease to feel resentment against. So forgiveness could be defined as the state of mind and heart where one ceases to feel resentment. I didn’t find any definition that included forgetting!
Forgiveness is not an event or a one-time action. Forgiveness is a process. One never forgets an action by another that causes us hurt or a painful experience that involved others turning against us. As human beings, “forgive and forget,” is just not possible. Our minds cannot erase the event or the action that requires forgiveness. We know, too, that others are incapable of forgetting our actions or involvement in experiences that caused them hurt or pain. But God has made a way for us to be forgiven, and He sent Jesus to show us that we are to forgive others as well.
In the time this psalm was penned, confession and sacrifice were required in order to earn God’s forgiveness. Jesus changed the rules, though! Jesus did more than earn forgiveness for our sins. He set an example for us and served as a model. Even on the Cross, He begged God to forgive those who were responsible for the Crucifixion (all of us!). He earned all of us a place in heaven “as if we had never sinned.” Jesus paid the ultimate price for us and because of His one great sacrifice we are no longer required to offer sacrifices to earn forgiveness. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, for all time.
Some of us have lived through horrific childhoods, abusive marriages or soul-robbing jobs. Some of us have held on to the sins committed against us for many years. Some of us have committed terrible sins against others and against God. Jesus tells us, we must forgive in order to be redeemed. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” [Mar 11:25] That forgiveness may include forgiving ourselves. We can only do that with the certain knowledge that through Christ, we are already forgiven.
In her article on forgiveness, Garnet Miller discusses the murders of the Amish school children in October 2006. Many were awed and, frankly, confused by how readily, quickly, and unconditionally the Amish community forgave the murder. More than that, they comforted his family! That is the radical kind of forgiveness Jesus demonstrated on the Cross.Each day I grasp more and more how huge God is. How old. How grand and beautiful. It really is unspeakable to think of a world where the oceans pound against sand and volcanoes roar out fire and lava on a mountainside; and in the midst of it all He cared enough to make us. He placed us as central and most precious of all creations He ever imagined. A little lower than the angels. That’s us! Forgiven. Loved. Cherished. Delivered.