I think forgiveness is one of the most important doctrines in our faith. So important that we speak of forgiveness almost weekly in our church services and sometimes daily within our personal relationships. Although we know what forgiveness is and we know what it should look like it can still be hard to put into practice. We know what forgiveness is by looking to God and looking at the forgiveness He has gives to us. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God shows us His love by forgiving us before we even sin and before we were born. God knew us and knew our sinful nature before we even had a name. This is the kind of forgiveness we are given and in return, this is the kind of forgiveness we should be giving.
The forgiveness that comes from above with our relationship with God should flow through every relationship we have. This should include all of our relationships with other as well as the relationship we have internally with ourselves. The internal relationship we have with ourselves may sound like something that would put a person in the loony bin but it is actually just a normal relationship we have in this life that few talk about. This relationship is defined by how we treat ourselves, how we talk to ourselves, how we hold ourselves to certain standards and show ourselves grace when needed. In my opinion, the internal relationship is just as important if not more important than the relationship we have with others. It has been said if we cannot love ourselves then how can we expect to love others. I would like to take it one step further and say if we cannot give ourselves forgiveness how can we expect to give forgiveness to others.
Since this is such an important relationship in our lives forgiveness should be at the center. The process of putting forgiveness at the center of this relationship does not come easily for many. It comes with a few hurdles that we must overcome to give ourselves the forgiveness that has been to us from God.
The first hurdle is that we cannot accept that God has forgiven us for what we have done in the past. When we ask God to forgive us, He wipes us clean and we are completely forgiven but for us, we hold on to that weight and carry it around as a reminder of our past transgressions. We use it as a reminder of what we should not do in the future. Although it is important to learn from past mistakes we are not to wear the weight of this sin forever as a reminder. That is not what God intended when He send His son to die for our sins. He wants us to bring our past to the foot of the cross and leave it there.
The second hurdle we would face is that we feel that we don’t deserve to be forgiven. Although we are sinful by nature and deserve nothing God said otherwise and saved us through the death of His son. We must choose to see ourselves as God sees us. We are His prized possession and children. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We must choose to see ourselves as God see us and attempt to live up to who He is calling us to be. Because of God, we are deserving of forgiveness not because of who we are but because of who God is.
The third and most dangerous hurdle is that we simply do not want to be forgiven. We set out with good intentions but once we learn about how much work goes into being a follower of Christ we stop halfway. We play the part of the believer but when it comes time to make a real change we prefer to continue to do it our way. We don’t see the harm in living for ourselves and only following the laws we want to follow. Because of this, we see no need to forgive ourselves because we don’t think we are doing any wrong. This kind of thinking puts us on the path to destruction and leads to a hot afterlife.
We all need forgiveness because we all have sinned against God, others, and ourselves. Romans 3:23-24 tells us that, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God is quick to forgive us when we call on him but we are not so quick to give ourselves that same grace. When we refuse to forgive ourselves we are saying that God is wrong to forgive us, we are saying that His beloved children are not worthy of His love. Although we may feel this is true, we must let God be the judge of this.
This week I want to leave you with a question and a challenge… Have you truly forgiven yourself of all the sins you have forgiven or are you holding on to them? What would it take to unburden yourself and leave those sins at the foot of the cross? I challenge you to take a hard look at your relationship with God and the internal relationship happening inside of you. Choose to see yourself as a loved child to God that has been forgiven of all of your sins. Use the prayer below or create your own prayer to ask for the self-forgiveness you are seeking.
A prayer for self-forgiveness: