Forgiveness is the demonstration of God’s grace to us in our fallen and sinful state, a free gift from God through Christ (Rom. 5:15). The death of Christ on the cross demonstrated God’s love for us, even in our sinfulness (Rom. 5:8), and provided the means of transformation from death to life (1 Jn. 3:14), from enemies to children of God (Rom. 5:10). As God’s children, we have access to a relationship with Him as our Father (John 14:9), able to express our gratitude, desires, needs, and requests (Matt. 6:9-13). Our sins are forgiven through the death of Christ and fellowship and relationship are maintained by abiding in Christ (Jn. 15:4), walking in the light (1 John 1:7), and confessing our sins and failures (1 John 1:9).
The Gospel is the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. The truth about God is that God is love and He demonstrated His love toward me by sending His Son to die on the cross for my sins (1 Cor. 15:3), being raised on the third day to show His power of sin and death (1 Cor. 15:20). The truth about me, and us, is that we are dead in our transgressions and sins, lost without a Savior (Luke 19:10). We need God’s forgiveness to be no longer dead but alive in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), and while this is a universally acknowledged concept by Christians, the struggle occurs in the realization of our need for God’s continued forgiveness and our reflection of His forgiveness in this vertical relationship to our horizontal relationships.
In the beginning, God created us in perfect relationship with Himself, one another, ourselves, and creation (Gen. 2:24-25). Sin disrupted each of these relationships, distorted our view and awareness of self, trust and relationships with others, trust and relationship with God, and struggle and pain with creation (Gen. 3:14-19). As Jesus explained in His model of prayer in Matthew 6, our experience of God’s forgiveness both ultimately and daily should influence our capacity and desire to forgive others. Forgiving others can be hard because it means that we release our right for justice in being wronged in some way. But what about how to forgive ourselves? Why is it so difficult to forgive ourselves when we fall into sin and what does it mean when we can accept God’s forgiveness and extend forgiveness to others, but not forgive ourselves? How can we learn to stop the sin cycle and forgive ourselves?
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