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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Learning Forgiveness

The Bible says that when we confess our sins to God, we can trust in the fact that He is faithful to forgive. It further says that He then separates us from our sin "as far as the east is from the west." Have you ever wondered what that means? Have you ever wondered what the implications of that are?

Forgiveness is a complex matter. To really understand it, I think we need to look to God's example. We readily recite the Lord's Prayer, which says something like, "forgive us as we forgive each other." Do we --- forgive each other? The Bible is pretty clear about the fact that we should. In fact, we must. The Bible says that if we don't forgive --- we aren't forgiven! Holy cow!

So how does God want us to forgive? I think it's like He forgives. You see, God never ever remembers the sins we commit against Him after they've been confessed. If I confess a sin, but later commit it again, God doesn't say, "Well there you go again!" How does He actually do this - forget the sin we commit and confess? It seems to be something which we as humans aren't capable of. In fact it is.

So if this forgiveness that God requires of us is impossible for us to give, what should we do? I think we look to God's example and strive to model ourselves after it. And what I'm learning is that we can get better at it. As we grow to be more like Christ, we will acquire God's ability to forget the confessed sins of the past.

So when you do something that offends me and later repent and confess it, I must forgive you. It doesn't matter what you've done. If you're truly sorry and confess it, I am obligated to extend the same kind of forgiveness to you that God extends to me. You know, it's the kind that separates me from the sin "as far as the east is from the west." It's the kind of forgiveness that never allows me to recall it and use it against you.

I've found that this kind of forgiveness takes a lot of practice. I may think I've extended that perfect forgiveness to you --- only to later find myself harboring some bitterness and resentment about the offense you were supposedly forgiven for. Folks, that means the forgiveness has failed. Unforgiveness has crept back into our relationship - and in my mind, I've re-associated you with the sin you already confessed.

I expect to be working on building my forgiveness skills for the rest of my life. How about you?

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