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I must forgive myself - right?

Sep 29, 2017


Our culture makes a pretty big deal about being able to forgive oneself.  A quick google search shows an endless string of quotes and encouragements about doing just that.  In general, the reasoning is that you can't go on forever beating yourself up over past mistakes.  You must forgive yourself and move on.  It seems like a reasonable philosophy.  But I just can't locate it in the Bible.  We established pretty clearly in our previous times together that forgiveness of others is essential - commanded - for Christ followers even when it is difficult.  But not forgiving ourselves.  So does this mean that God wants us to go through life despondent over past sins?  That would seem really cruel.

But it's just the opposite.  God does not tell us to forgive ourselves because he wants so much more for us:

  • First, our sense of guilt is used to bring us to a place of repentance.  By repenting we acknowledge our wrong and embrace God's right.  It is what allows us to not go back to that place.  Without repentance the liar keeps on lying, the abuser keeps on abusing, the gossiper keeps on wagging their tongue.  If we forgive ourselves - God's work of conviction is short circuited, our relationships continue to crumble and we fail to be transformed into the image of Christ.   This is one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit.

“Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment:”                                                  

John 16:7–8 

  • Second, if we do not have remorse over our sin, we are not likely to have gratitude for our forgiveness through Christ.  In Luke 7, Jesus is having dinner at Simon the Pharisee's house.  A sinful woman (likely a prostitute) comes in and starts weeping at Jesus feet as he reclined at the table.  She then does the unthinkable and lets down her hair and begins wiping the dust and mud off of Jesus feet, kissing them and wiping them with expensive oil.  Simon, who had not even extended the common courtesies of a bowl of water for Jesus to wash his own feet or offered Jesus the normal welcoming kiss begins to Judge Jesus and this woman over this unseemly display.  Jesus asks him a question:  Two people owed debts which are both forgiven.  One a large amount, one a small.  Jesus asks Simon which would love the master more.  Obviously Simon responds the one forgiven the greater debt.  As a matter of fact Jesus says the one who is forgiven little loves little.  So it is with our sin.  If we lose our sensitivity to it's magnitude before God our love and gratitude for it's forgiveness is prone to be small.  Paul understood this when he wrote:

1Tim. 1:15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the worldb to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.

1 Tim. 1:15

“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.”

1 Cor. 15:9–10 

  • So does that mean we beat ourselves up forever?  Not at all!  When we see the magnitude of our sin this promise from 1 John takes on incredible significance.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

  • I don't know about you, but my forgiveness is not always faithful.  I have a hard time with the one and done approach - forgive once and it's over.  Not with God.  God's forgiveness is so far superior to ours why would we want ours when we can have His.  I don't beat myself up - I raise my hands, weep, and dance for joy because I know I am truly forgiven with a forgiveness that never fails, of a wrong that will never come back to be held over my head.  God receives glory.  Love for God springs up in my heart.  Humility with God and those who sin against me controls me.  My character is molded into that of Christ.  WHY WOULD I WANT TO FORGIVE MYSELF WHEN I CAN HAVE THIS INSTEAD?