There is sometimes much confusion in religious communities about forgiveness, not only God’s forgiveness but also forgiving each other, and perhaps more importantly, forgiving ourselves.
Some say only God can forgive, that it is not in our gift to forgive someone who has hurt or wronged us, but that misses an important point. The mother of one of the Moors Murder victims swore she would never forgive those who abducted and killed her little daughter. I remember hearing her saying: ‘Even after my death, I will come back and haunt them.’
Now it can never be easy to forgive such a horrible thing as she suffered, but that lady did eventually die a bitter, twisted old woman. You could therefore say that the murderous twosome took her life along with that of her daughter.
I think of another example. A young woman was brutally raped by an intruder who went on to murder her father, and the terribly traumatised girl was forced to watch as he was clubbed to death. What she said, years later when her physical wounds had healed, was instructive: ‘I fully forgive that man, for if I didn’t it would twist me up inside, and I would never allow him to have that control over me.’
The point is that forgiveness can benefit the forgiver far more than the one who is forgiven. Yet sometimes it can be easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. Why is that? Perhaps, as R T Kendall suggests, it’s because we really don’t feel that we are forgiven by God, and when you listen to some of the rubbish presented as truth by some preachers, that’s quite understandable: like the great video screen in the sky in the ‘sweet bye and bye’, recording and showing every sordid detail of our lives to a boggle-eyed world, a lie designed by dubious pastors to keep their flock imprisoned in fear and keep them in a job.
Listen to what Paul the apostle tells us: ‘Love is patient and kind ... and it keeps no record of wrongs.’
When I was a boy I was encouraged to ‘keep a short account with God’, in other words I should not go for more than an hour so without confessing my sins. But if God, who is love, keeps no record of wrongs, frankly I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he got annoyed by my endless pleading for forgiveness for things that he had chosen to know nothing about.
Allow me to refer again to Jack Frost – the man whose belief that all God requires of me is to receive the Father’s love and pass it on, changed my life forever.
Unless we accept that God has totally forgiven us, it is difficult for us to receive his love. We then believe that God is harbouring a grudge and so we are reduced to perpetual navel-gazing, introspection, self examination. And as we fail to receive his love, we also fail to pass it on, and we remain bound in chains of fear and insecurity.
Let me encourage you to embrace God’s total forgiveness. That thing that you did many years ago that you’re still beating yourself up about? God knows nothing about it, he has chosen to wipe it from his memory banks. So for goodness sake, wipe it from yours!
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