I’m continuing a series on the forgiveness that God has for us. The Bible often connects the idea of “repentance”, that is, turning back to God, with being forgiven. I want to talk about that here because I think people often misunderstand the connection.
People often make the mistake of thinking that we repent – or change – in order to be forgiven. But the truth is; we turn back to God because we’ve been forgiven. Do you see the difference? Let me give you two examples.
Imagine that I’ve offended you and I want to restore our relationship. You say to me, If you change, I’ll forgive you. That seems fair enough. But I immediately think… How much do I need to change to be forgiven? Can I just change a little? Do I need to change a lot? Or do I have to be perfect in order to be forgiven? What if I don’t change enough?
Suddenly I’m not concentrating on relating to you, I’m concentrating on my behavior. And the more I focus on my behavior, the worse it gets. Then I start to worry about what you think. It all gets unhealthy very fast.
When Forgiveness is Unconditional
Here’s another example: I forgive you completely. I promise not to hold anything against you. Period. No strings attached. That feels totally different to me. Instead of dwelling on my past failures, I can focus on our new life together. It gives me hope for our relationship.
This last example is exactly how God wants his forgiveness to impact you. He wants his forgiveness to draw you into a relationship with Him and give you hope for a future. When that happens, your life changes. When you know that you have a future with God it inspires you to change. It motivates you.
Too often people see God’s forgiveness like a carrot on string in front of them. If forgiveness is dependent on their performance they fear they will never be forgiven. The good news is that God’s forgiveness is free. We can’t earn it. We just receive it.
If you feel like you’ve been trying to jump through hoops to make God happy…you can stop. You are forgiven. Let that sink in. Then follow God with all you’ve got.
Question: Many people think that forgiveness is a reward for good behavior. What do you think? Leave your comment below.
This post is adapted from the “Forgiven…once and for all”. To get a free copy of the e-book, subscribe to the blog.