Many sins are quiet and respectable, and therefore go unnoticed in our culture. How many sermons have you heard on gluttony or the evils of wealth? But when a person, especially a clergyperson, sins, most especially if that sin involves sexuality, and it becomes public, many people are offended, shocked, and enraged. Some of them feel quite justified in not forgiving. Some even feel God has appointed them bringers of justice.
The repentant weep in brokenness, guilt, shame and sorrow. They try to facilitate reconciliation. They ask those they know they have offended to forgive them. They take responsibility. They try to repair any damage done. They do their best to make amends. If reparations are in order, they try to pay the debt.
We long for everyone to forgive us. Ultimately, however, none of us have control over whether others will forgive us or not.
Ultimately, all sin is against God. It is God’s laws we broke. It is God’s love we wounded. And it is God who tells us, “Son, daughter, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.” It is God who from the Roman gibbet prays, “Father, forgive them.”
It seems audacious. “Who is this who forgives sins?” I sin against you; you forgive me. You sin against me; I forgive you. But who can forgive you for sinning against someone else? I have no authority to forgive the Nazi who oversaw the death camp. His victims can forgive him, but I cannot. God, however, can.
God, the maker of the law we broke, God, the loving heart we wounded, forgives all who come to him. There is nothing God cannot or will not forgive except the stubborn refusal on our part to be forgiven.
Why would we not accept forgiveness? Perhaps we feel our sin is so heinous that we must be punished; we must suffer. Perhaps we cannot imagine forgiving ourselves. Perhaps we take to heart the unforgiveness of others, the rebuffing of our efforts to reconcile.
None of that affects the eternal reality. “If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Though it hurts to know there are offended people out there who condemn, they are not our judge. God is our judge, and God has acquitted us, pronounced us forgiven, cast all our sins into the deepest sea, and separated all our transgressions as far as east is from west.
Precious is the flow
That washes white as snow
We cannot control how others feel or act. We take God’s edict as our truth. Forgiven. Restored. Many regrets, things we would do differently; but, here and now, we are accepted in the Beloved.