I recently wrote a reflection on forgiveness (here) and in a discussion about that post I found there is one more thing which needs to be said. Ans since I ended that post with a line from Relient K it is only fitting to begin this one with a line from their “Be my escape”,
I am a hostage to my own humanity
Self-detained and forced to live in this mess I’ve made
And all I’m asking is for you to do what you can with me
But I can’t ask you to give what you already gave
Focus on that last line, “I can’t ask you to give what you already gave”. This is a picture of forgiveness. It is so common in society (and I’m guilty of this with my kids) to push people to ask for forgiveness; but true forgiveness is not something given because of a request. Forgiveness is something a person does out of their own heart. If I am only willing to restore a relationship with a person who wrongs me when that individual presses me, I cannot say I have forgiven the issue. Think of a debt forgiveness does not happen when a person completes paying on the debt, forgiveness happens so the person does not have to pay the debt.
The last post I wrote on this was titled “Forgive Like Jesus” because it is in Jesus we see the ultimate act of forgiveness. God, through, Jesus, extended forgiveness to the entire world. This means that we cannot ask for God’s forgiveness because it has already been extended. We can only receive the forgiveness already given. God has already given us the freedom from our debt and a complete restoration of the Divine-human relationship. There is nothing we can ask of God which has not previously been granted to us.
For many, like myself, who grew up hearing we must “ask God to forgive our sins” this concept might cause you some headaches. But it is true we cannot ask God to forgive us because God has nothing left to forgive. The ultimate act of love was to completely restore the relationship before we even realized it was broken. We cannot come to God begging for forgiveness we can only come to God ready to accept the gift already given. I’ve learned this lesson again and again from my children. Both in my ability to forgive their wrongs before they ever realize there is a breach of relationship and in their ability to forgive my faults when I am not so quick to love them. One of the things you quickly realize dealing with young children is that, though we teach them to apologize for actions, the apology does not have bearing on our forgiveness as parents. I have forgiven the wrongs done to me and have extended to the child a renewed relationship, often before the child recognizes the breach. My offer is not contingent on the apology, I simply want the child to recognize the breach of the relationship to correct their behavior.
Such a remarkable concept can be difficult for people to understand, particularly those who want to buy their way to heaven. I think we like the idea of begging and pleading for salvation because we like to think we somehow convinced God to accept us even though God didn’t want to do so. We like to have a hand in being forgiveness, like we somehow atoned for our mistakes. But this simply is not true, God has freely accepted you into a new social order, without your help and without you even apologizing. We must stop looking at forgiveness as transactional as if the author of love needs an outside force compelling that love to act. No God simply loves and requests us to do the same.