All people desire forgiveness. Even if we step out of the realm of religion, we still hear words like forgiveness and redemption. The reason is that all of us have sinned. We have all sinned against God and we have all sinned against one another (Rom 3:23). Those sins, whether big or small, put an enormous burden on our shoulders.
The first sin ever committed by man was the eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This caused the relationship to be broken between man and God (Rom 5:12). The second sin recorded in the Bible was Cain murdering Abel. This sin shows the destruction of relationships between man and man. The great story of the Bible is first, the reconciliation of God and man, and then reconciling mankind together.
Jesus declared that all the word of God is built on two commandments. Everything that is in the Bible is in some way related to helping us love God, and to love our fellow man (Matt 22:37-40). There is so much division and hatred in the world, and that is because people are not turning to the Book.
It is interesting to observe the man-made ways of reconciliation and forgiveness. We have many high-profile examples of people who have committed some great sin and then found "forgiveness" through some arbitrary process.
The most popular approach seems to be to strategically apologize and then disappear for a while. In a world of 24/7 information, time seems to be the best medicine. They will slowly be reintroduced into the public arena and all will be forgotten.
Some may use their money to buy forgiveness. A celebrity might donate to a charity that is against domestic violence if they abused their wife. He then may go out and buy a nice piece of jewelry for his wife. Money goes a long way.
Through charm or charisma, an individual may be able to actually change the public opinion on the seriousness of the sin they were involved in. Take the Clinton/Lewinski scandal as a prime example. Many people viewed his affair as understandable!
On the other hand, there are some sins to our society that are so bad that forgiveness is not even on the table. Today that sin is what they call “racism”. Voting a certain way, wanting people to stand for the national anthem, and simply loving this country’s founding framework now makes one a racist. From what I can tell, this person is too far gone for forgiveness.
Man-made rules of forgiveness are confusing and frustrating. They have no consistency to them whatsoever. When we wonder why there is so much hate and division, most of it has to do with the way in which the world would forgive each other.
God has given us a better path to forgive one another.
First, there must be a standard of right and wrong (John 8:32). This is important for so many reasons but one of the reasons is the person committing a sin must actually see it as a sin. Also, the people who are offended shouldn’t just get to randomly pick what they are offended over. Not everything that I am offended by is sinful. In a baseball game both teams are playing according to the same rule book. While a player may disagree with a call, they are still playing according to that set of rules. We need to have an established set of rules if we are ever going to be able to forgive one another.
Second, there must be a desire to come to reconciliation. There are a lot of people who do not actually desire reconciliation. They desire to destroy the people they disagree with. Much of the division that we have in society and in our personal life is because we would rather feel right than be at peace with each other.
Third, when we have sinned against someone, we should be willing to go through great lengths to make it right. And if we are the offended, we should be willing to endure great loss for the sake of that relationship.
Fourth, we must learn from our mistakes. In Ephesians 4:28 it says that the one who stole, should steal no more and instead should go get a job. We all have the ability to see when someone has not actually changed. People can see it within us too. Nothing hurts reconciliation like empty apologies and promises.
Fifth, we have to be patient. Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive a person 490 times if they ask us (Matt 18:22). Someone trying to break free from substance abuse may relapse. We should not simply say, “I knew it!” and give up on them. We are supposed to be there to strengthen and encourage them.
We should remember that this is also how God forgives.
He has a standard of right and wrong in the Gospel (Rom 1:16-17). It never changes (Mal 3:6).
He desires to have a relationship with every single person (2 Pet 3:9).
When we approach him for forgiveness, we are in his hands and stand condemned to be punished in Hell. But God has extended a mercy and grace greater than we can ever imagine. He was willing to endure great loss in his Son, for our sins to be forgiven. Therefore, we will do what he says to receive that forgiveness. God tells us to repent and be baptized “for the remission of our sins” (Acts 2:38). Grace is free and no man can earn it (Eph 2:8-9), but God has attached these terms to receiving that gift.
God is patient with those who have obeyed. God promises continual cleansing to all who will walk in the light, and confess their sins (1 John 1:7-10).
If we want peace, let's turn to the Prince of Peace for our instructions.