[note— in the United States, this is the day we chose our elected officials at the Federal level. I’m sure most of us need to seek forgiveness for many things we have said and done during these past weeks and months. We may need to seek forgiveness from others, and from God.]
Finally, I want to address the issue of accepting forgiveness from God. I struggle on many levels with this idea. Philosophically, if there is a God, and I indeed have wronged Him, it makes complete sense to repent, cease and desist in my rebellious actions, and seek forgiveness. But why would He even offer forgiveness? He certainly is in no way obligated to do so. All actions have consequences. So why am I offered forgiveness? I certainly have not fulfilled even the slightest requirements of obedience to His Laws; yet I do desperately try to live within the perimeters of His protection.
As a Christian I know I already have forgiveness, through Christ’s life-sacrifice to pay the penalties for my sin, as well as for the sins of a host of others. As I grow in faith (and forgiveness) I become more aware of the effects my sin has on God and upon myself. “Loathing” seems to be a word that aptly describes my state. I loathe what I sense inside me and I loathe what I know it is doing to the God I say I love. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed to call Him my friend. How can I accept His forgiveness with any degree of integrity!?! The answer is, I can’t.
Most people do not phrase the question of forgiveness in this manner. Most people assume God forgives them. I find this a most dangerous assumption, unfounded in just about every religion on the planet. Furthermore, I find that most people assume that the God of the Universe is there to do their bidding, rather than the other way around: that we exist to serve the God who made us. How did we turn things upside down and become so topsy-turvy?
The question we’ve always asked has been, “How can God NOT forgive everybody?” Rather, the more authentic question should be, “Why should God bother to forgive any one of us!?!”
These are some of my philosophical questions around the issue of receiving forgiveness from God. But I have some personal issues with accepting His forgiveness as well. At one time, earlier in my life, these questions arose from constantly being reminded that I was a sinner, not good enough, that I could never please God. Thank you, American fundamentalism of the 1950s & ‘60s. Later in life my issues were more tied to, what my wife describes as, my morbid introspection about life; that constant sense of not being good enough, never quite measuring up in God’s eyes, or in the eyes of others. It was a feeling of constantly being judged. I deserve judgment, not forgiveness. Blame it on an unforgiving father, I was told. I couldn’t forgive myself: and I couldn’t trust in God’s forgiveness.
It is true that for much of my life I have wrestled with chronic depression; not a depression that would institutionalize me, but rather a deep-seated nagging that I will never measure up. Looking back, I need to admit that I have been quite successful in pioneering many endeavors in life that turned out to be ground-breaking enterprises; one venture even pioneered a new field of study— [How Historical Paradigm Shifts Affect Cross Cultural Communication.] Accepting God’s forgiveness has been a long process for me. In the end, when I realized that Christ had actually forgiven me, it was like a brilliant explosion of light erupting in my heart and head. A true “Ah-Ha!” moment.
Now I could forgive myself, God, and others. More significantly, I could now also accept his forgiveness.
There is an odd sense of freedom that overpowers every aspect of your being when you realize that you stand free, forgiven, and have a new life in God. It took a long time, but I no longer live as a guilty Christian, but rather, a forgiven sinner.
Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— the road ahead