As Christians we often talk about the subject of forgiveness. Most times it’s in reference to how we are able to forgive those who hurt us, and why that forgiveness is so critical to our walk with Christ and our experience here on this earth. Often times, however, the unforgiveness that haunts us most, is that which we hold for ourselves, and the fallen world we live in doesn’t do us any favors.
Many Christians struggle with vivid memories of the versions of themselves that reigned their lives before they came to Christ, and even more so with specific mistakes, failures, and especially painful sins they’ve committed. If you were lucky enough to be raised in the faith, maybe your negative experiences and potentially poor choices have been mitigated by your early knowledge of Christ. But trust me, as a person who was raised in the church, we can fall just as hard. Sometimes harder.
This is not a forgiving world. Daily, weekly, monthly reminders of our screw-ups, our mis-haps, the former selves that we’re not so proud of, lurk menacingly in our peripheral vision. Both in the places we would expect them to be… an old bar or hangout, a familiar face on Facebook; and in places that somehow catch us off guard.. A random text from an old acquaintance, a picture that falls out of a college yearbook. Though we’ve asked for forgiveness countless times, we are suddenly gripped with regret, shame, and guilt all over again. In the quiet recesses of our turning mind we wonder “Am I really forgiven?”.
It is in these moments that the evil one finds such pleasure. As Debby Kay so beautifully puts it, “It’s the enemy of our souls that ties us down with such things in an effort to keep us from living our lives in the freedom Christ offers and it hinders us from being all Christ calls us to be.”
Scripture tells us that King David struggled with the same feelings, with being overtaken by guilt and shame over his great sin. This is not a new or unique problem for the human heart.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. – Psalm 40:11-12
Later in the Psalms, David proclaims the truth of how God views us, and our sins, once we allow him to lead our lives.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:8-12
When we understand and believe in the beautiful truth how God views us, we can begin to work on how we should operate in this fallen world, as forgiven children of God. We’ll talk more about how to do that, next week.