As I visited with a young man who was in jail this week, his eyes teared up as he said, “People are writing me, and telling me God loves me. They say what I know, that he’ll forgive me. But my question is…what do I have to do???”
My heart was on fire. I didn’t expect these words, and if I’d watched that scene play out in a movie, I would have groaned “yeah, cause that would really happen.” But it did. There I was, door swung wide open for a moment, involved in God reaching out in Love to a son.
Afterward, I began to wonder when exactly we begin to think like this. An “economic” view of forgiveness. My children don’t seem to have it yet. Our 4 year old messes up, whether in something small like pulling her sisters hair, or something larger like willful disobedience in a dangerous environment. (not following instruction in a parking lot) Maybe even breaking something that mommy or daddy care about. When the tears of the moment have subsided, there’s usually a moment where she says, “I’m sorry, daddy”. I can’t stay upset or frustrated (for long), and I pull her close, saying “I forgive you.”
She’s never once (so far) come back to me and said, “Really dad? Are you sure you forgive me? Isn’t there something I can do to help release me from my indebtedness to you?” Daddy said she was forgiven, and after a hug she runs back to join her sisters in playing. She is free.
We were all like that once.
But at some point, or points, we experienced relationships where offense and forgiveness took on the economic structures of this world. We offended someone who used us to their advantage. We wronged someone, and they reminded us long after words of forgiveness were spoken. Scales become tilted one direction or the other, and we’re used to the rational process of adding more weight to one side, in order to balance things out.
So when someone tells us that we are forgiven…completely. That this forgiveness comes no matter which of the 10 commandments we’ve neglected, and it comes without any merit of our own. This can be hard for us to grasp. Because we’ve unlearned what used to seem so natural. Forgiveness occurs, not in simply balancing the scales and making us “make sense” in God’s sight. In His mercy and Love, God throws out our scales, and simply says “love and follow me”. He calls us His children, and dies for us, even when we were at our worst.
We only had 15 minutes to chat that day total, and several had already ticked off the clock. But I believe God is making a New Creation in him, and I look forward to more conversation and prayer. May we each be reminded by our children, of how natural it is to “accept forgiveness” as a child. God has called us forgiven and free…let’s live that way…:)