Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Fallacy of Forgiving (Self)

"When you have finished taking all the tithes of your grain... make the following declaration before God: "I have removed all the sacred portions... I have given the appropriate portions to the Levite, the orphan and the widow..." (Deut. 26:12-13)

The passage is telling us that to properly evaluate our spiritual status, the key ingredient is to speak it out loud. "Make the following declaration before God" -- i.e. articulate verbally where we have succeeded and where we have failed.

As an intelligent, thinking, imaginative being, man has all sorts of thoughts flashing constantly through his mind. Even sublime thoughts of remorse and self-improvement are not strange to him, but they do not last. For his thoughts to have lasting meaning, he must distill them into words, because the process of thought culminates when ideas are expressed and clarified."

"That is not as easy as it sounds. It is usually excruciatingly difficult for people to admit explicitly that they have done wrong. We excuse ourselves. We refuse to admit the truth. We shift blame. We deny the obvious. We excel at rationalizing. But the person who wrenches from himself the unpleasant truth, 'I have sinned,' has performed a great and meaningful act."

The problem is when we're not willing to admit the truth to ourselves. As the prophet Jeremiah says, "God will judge us when we say 'I didn't sin.'"

"There is tension between God’s justice and His love: our sin offends God in such a way that His wrath can only be appeased through punishment, from which the fortunate among us are exempt by virtue of Jesus’ sacrifice applied to us (= salvation)."

George MacDonald stated, "Truth is indeed too good for men to believe; they must dilute it before they can take it; they must dilute it before they dare give it. They must make it less true before they can believe it enough to get any good of it…Unable to believe in the forgiveness of their father in heaven, they invented a way to be forgiven that should not demand of him so much; which might make it right for him to forgive; which should save them from having to believe downright in the tenderness of his fatherheart, for that they found impossible. They thought him bound to punish for the sake of punishing, as an offset to their sin; they could not believe in clear forgiveness; that did not seem divine; it needed itself to be justified; so they invented for its justification a horrible injustice, involving all that was bad in sacrifice, even human sacrifice. They invented a satisfaction for sin which was an insult to God. He sought no satisfaction, but an obedient return to the Father. What satisfaction was needed he made himself in what he did to cause them to turn from evil and go back to him. The thing was too simple for complicated unbelief and the arguing spirit."
Crimes (and sin) create relational and psychological wounds. Guilt is one of those wounds.

Guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done). Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation.

Guilt can sometimes be remedied by: punishment, forgiveness, reparation or remorse.

The law does not usually accept an agent's self-punishment, it never accepts self-forgiveness. Justice demands punishment. It is widely accepted by Christians that punishment resolves the issue of justice. But, are justice and punishment the same thing? This is an important question because when Christians speak of hell as "just" they are implicitly drawing an equivalence between the "punishment" of sin and God's "justice." So what is needed for justice to be done? Some suggest that justice involves the reconciliation of the victim and the perpetrator. Hell or punishment doesn't heal the wounds of sin. Hell or punishment doesn't mend. Hell or punishment doesn't bring peace. Hell or punishment doesn't atone. Punishment only brings about awareness of error and seeks to alter behaviour by associating pain with wrongdoing.

We must all suffer the consequences of our sin and be actively involved in the hard work of repentance and reconciliation-- it is selfish to believe that there lies before man an alternative path other than obedience

Self-forgiveness is for people who love their sin but want off the hook from obedience. Self-forgiveness denies repentance its place in the work of salvation and creates a facetious atonement of the heart apart from any relational accountability. There is no pain nor punishment in self-forgiveness as a course of action.

Actual forgiveness is relational, associative and concomitant. Sin created a relationship by its action. A man failed and in failure digressed from a state of peace to one of conflict and separation. Resolution and restoration are the only means by which a man has of addressing the issue of his sin. The sacrifice of confession of wrongdoing, the admission of harm done in creating conflict, the acknowledgement of the need for forgiveness from the offended party and the concession that only the offended party has the right to refute punishment and mete justice is partially the pathway to the restoration of peace.

It must be noted that sin, crime, harm and/or offences are never really resolved. The actions and reactions of men with men are never forgotten and even in forgiveness the harm is not diminished. What was taken away will never be given back. We see in the consequences of sin/disobedience a requirement of restoring something that was never a man's to take in the first place. In this we see the divine grace of God and the work of repentance and obedience in a Christian's life, in that, with forgiveness of sin a man still has the work to do to return to God what was never a man's to rightfully claim. Forgiveness is never earned nor is it a man's right, it neither provides credit nor obligation, it is forever an act of grace.
Forgiveness as an act of grace does not resolve the need for justice, however, it may mitigate the requirements of punishment. Self-forgiveness seeks to negate the issue of justice and refute the requirements of punishment.
"Settle the issue of God's forgiveness through the cross of Christ - it then becomes a matter of letting God be God. He is the judge - we are not.  The concept of self-forgiveness is at its worst - man taking his seat at the throne of God once again. In most cases - I think self forgiveness is just poor language used to express deep guilt or regret. The solution is always the cross - take the focus off of self - let Him reign. The only way to being set free of the guilt is by receiving - really knowing and experiencing - God's forgiveness and love. "Forgiving myself" sounds so inviting and plausible upon first inspection - but it's both impossible, and not required. I really believe that the concept of "forgiving ourselves" is a deceit of the enemy to keep us bound. The issue is not our involvement in the process - we clearly are (e.g. Hebrews 12:1) - but our definition of "forgiveness". We need His (God's) forgiveness, not our own. But for our part we do need to truly accept it in order to receive it. I don't think that process is "self-forgiveness". I think that process is coming into true belief that God has forgiven us (which will take some time, prayer, patience, help from others, and genuine encounter with the person of God)."

The Bibles says this:

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."(Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

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