Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ugly Truth of Forgiveness

Forgiveness COSTS. It costs big. It is quite expensive and, in fact, few can afford it. Truly, there is no such thing as forgiveness without cost.
For a perfect God who must keep all his own laws and promises, there is only atonement, then forgiveness. The atonement is paying the price, then the issue is forgotten and expunged from the record... you have paid your debt, done your time.

With man, this is also true. When the benificent uncle who loaned you $50 or $50,000 says “your debt is forgiven,” you may think that there is an example of absolute free forgiveness. Your uncle paid. He paid big. The criminal thief may be forgiven his crime by the victim but the victim pays... even with the return of goods stolen! There is loss of time, effort, security, and trust. Over time the loss can be cumulative if it happens often and cynicism creates scar tissue of the soul. He indeed pays for the criminal’s sin.

My sin is forgiven only due to the death of Jesus on the cross. He is the example of forgiveness. No greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for another.

If I am to forgive others... I must pay... and the perfect payment is death.

I died to sin so sin no longer has its hold on me. We often think in self-centered ways about that verse. That I, myself, will not be tempted to sin... or that sin’s payment is not applied to me (forgetting all the while that Jesus’ death did that, not my own “work” at dying). But there is also a social aspect to that verse. The sins of others have no affect on a dead man. If I am to forgive as Christ forgives, then I have to be willing to pay the price for other’s sins in a local, social, temporal sense. If someone sins against me, the only way to forgive is when I die to myself in atonement for their sin against me. Indeed, I cannot die FOR him as Christ does. But I can die for his benefit, and mine, in a social and corporate sense. Without this ugly truth, that I must die to ALL sin, even another’s, there is no forgiveness. AS you forgive, so you shall be forgiven. AS you die to sin, so sin shall die to you.

Without the self-death and the personal resurrection of Jesus within us, not only is there little ability to forgive others, but there is little ability to live under a “go forth and sin no more” lifestyle as Jesus instructs. Surely I am not literally dead and truly I am not in a literal “sin no more” life... these states of being are from Grace as I live under the obedience to Christ. His death is sufficient to assure my death. His resurrection is powerful enough for me to be assured of my resurrection. His forgiveness is complete enough to cover my inability to forgive. I am not perfect. But I am being perfected in Him, I move in that direction as it were. If I am to be under grace then I give my failures to him... and again, it costs me (in submission to Him) and I must die to the self.

There is no forgiveness without personal cost.

Go forth and sin no more, dead man.

-The Haggard

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