If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
A few weeks ago, one of my old friends posted something in Facebook that caught my eye. I won’t post the entire quote, but the basic thought was, “It’s okay to live in sin for now. When you get tired of doing wrong, just go to God for forgiveness. After all, God loves you unconditionally. Save being good for when you’re older.”
Most Christians would respond to that with a gasp and matching she-said-that look. We ask, “How could she?!” and readily make judgments about that person and her lifestyle. What we don’t realize is that she had the courage to say (or type) something that we all live by everyday.
I admit to shrugging off my conscience’s nagging because I can just ask God for forgiveness in my usual 5-minute prayer before I fall asleep. I cheat by checking Facebook before I open my Bible knowing that God clearly wanted me to put Him first. I let angry thoughts simmer in my mind knowing that God wants me to love others unconditionally.
I partly blame churches for this way of thinking. I think we preach God’s goodness and grace more than his holiness and justice. We tell Christians that God is always willing to forgive and wipe the slate clean without encouraging them to take actual steps to keep themselves from sinning again.
God’s forgiveness is not just a showcase of His goodness. It is an evidence of His power as well.
I watched Schindler’s List for the first time 2 weeks ago (I know. I know. I should’ve seen this classic a long time ago). There’s a scene there where Liam Neeson (Schindler) told Ralph Fiennes (Goeth) that a man who forgives holds more power than someone who relentlessly and pointlessly kills people.
Oskar Schindler: Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.
Amon Goeth: You think that’s power?
Oskar Schindler: That’s what the Emperor said. A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor… pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Amon Goeth: I think you are drunk.
Oskar Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power.
We are unworthy of God’s forgiveness. He is a great God who can strike us down as He did the Old Testament characters we hear and read about. He has every justification to kill us, yet He doesn’t. We should be in AWE of that kind of power.
Yes, God allows do overs, but that doesn’t give us the right to keep sinning. We have to erase our mental picture of God as a puppy who’s all “Okay! Okay!” and replace it with an actual Father who’s willing to forgive, but is hurt when we disappoint Him.
The correct response is not to abuse His forgiveness, but to serve Him out of love. This is not just for the big choices in our life. We also have to factor in God’s forgiveness in the little decisions that we make.
And that’s my two cents on that.