On Forgiveness and Forgiving Oneself
Instead of forgiving oneself, it is necessary to accept the forgiveness granted by God and/or others, and, live in light of that forgiveness. As forgiven, loved, and set free from God, our shame diminishes in light of God’s incredible grace. We humbly respond as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.
Seeking as Answer
Not infrequently a counselee or a student will inquire about what to do when I cannot forgive myself. Here is my summary answer to the question.
Survey the Old Testament
If you have read the Old Testament through at some point, you have indeed observed that Israel, at one time or another, committed every sin known to man. Nowhere do you ever read that they were instructed to forgive themselves. Here is what we do know they were asked to do.
1) Remember that God chose you—Abraham is so important to the Jewish nation throughout the Bible. Remember the Pharisees’ claim, “We are of our father, Abraham”. God chose Israel in the calling of Abraham. They became his covenant people.
2) Remember that God loves you is a consistent message of the Old Testament from the choosing of Abraham (demonstrated love) through Malachi: Deuteronomy 7:7, 4:37, 10:5, 33:3, 12; II Sam 12:25; I Kings 19:9; Hosea 11:1 Mal 1:2-3.
3) Remember to repent—is the consistent instruction. Turn from your sin and turn in obedience to God. They are called to corporate worship as God prescribed for Israel and family/personal worship (too many passages to cite here).
4) Remember that God’s response to their repentance is forgiveness. Here are three references to illustrate this from Isaiah1:18-20, 43:25, and 44:21-22. These give us beautiful pictures to depict His forgiveness.
- Comment 1: Yes, God is omniscient (knows everything), but He covers our sin (including Israel’s) with his blood, and He chooses NOT to remember it any longer. There are times when there are consequences with which we must live. A contemporary example is a person who contracts AIDS from illicit sex. God will forgive, but he/she will live with AIDS. That is the consequence, not God remembering or punishing their sin.
- Comment 2: We learn from Hebrews 12:4-12 that God is our loving Father who disciplines us for our good and His glory. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is a “spanking” to get our attention with the intent that we will choose to repent and become obedient.