Jesus Never Told People They Need to Forgive Themselves
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
I meet people all the time who say, “I know God has forgiven me, but I’m having a hard time forgiving myself.”
I wish I could point you to a verse in the Bible or a specific passage that teaches self-forgiveness. The Bible never addresses the issue. Jesus never told people they needed to forgive themselves.
You can find numerous suggestions about forgiving yourself on the Internet. For example, the Internet site wikiHow offers a nine-step plan for forgiving yourself. Oprah offers help, as do Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil.
Interestingly, all these plans frame the process of self-forgiveness in terms of letting go of bitterness, resentment, anger, shame, and guilt. Letting go of all these intense emotions means you’ve let go of your past and you’ve forgiven yourself. The path those nine and ten-step plans suggest is paved with the ideas of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-affirmation and is traveled through meditation, mantras, therapy, reflection, and acts of atonement.
This sounds good and healthy, but it misses the point. Forgiveness means being released from punishment due to sin. It’s rooted in God’s grace and holiness. It’s God’s act in Jesus to satisfy his justice. He does not sweep sin under a carpet, nor does he simply choose to ignore it. He judged our sins and condemned them in Jesus Christ “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us” (Romans 8:4). God did not let our sins go unpunished. It is crucial that we know and understand this gospel truth.
Forgiveness is also God’s action in Jesus to justify us. He took our sins away from us and placed them on Jesus. Jesus died for us. We died in him. In this death our sins were sent away once and for all. And through Christ’s resurrection, God declares us to be righteous, or justified, in his sight. Romans 4:25 puts this together in one clear, powerful statement: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
That’s forgiveness. You receive this forgiveness in Christ. It became yours the day you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
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