Easy Forgiveness

I am currently attending college in one of those Bible belt cities with a church on every other street corner. When I first arrived three and a half years ago, I decided it would be fun to spend a semester visiting as many of those churches as I could. I had attended the same church for 19 years, and I figured it would do me good to see all the different ways people worshiped God. I visited a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church, an Antioch church, and a handful of nondenominational churches with words like “community” and “fellowship” in their names, just to name a few. It was an amazing experience. Sure, some of the practices I observed didn’t quite resonate with me, but there were a lot of things that I’d never seen before that I wished had been implemented in my own home church.

One of these practices was done while taking communion. Like at my home church, there was some time allotted for confession before God, but, unlike my church, after a minute or so of this confession, the pastor would say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” I’ve since learned that this is actually fairly common practice, but it was new to me and it stuck out. I remember having a conversation with a woman who said the pastor always said this phrase too soon – she could never finish confessing her sins before the pastor said she was forgiven. She voiced this complaint jokingly, with a sort of pious, mock frustration; but I think it does reflect an issue many of us have.

We try to make God’s forgiveness too hard and too incomplete.

Yes, our sin is serious and, yes, without Christ’s sacrifice it would totally separate us from God. It is very hard to believe that God would forgive us so easily. Here we are, bearers of his image, running around his creation and acting like idiots. It just sounds too easy that we could come to him and say “I’m sorry” and have our names cleared so easily. But when the Bible tells me my sins have been taken from me as far as the east is from the west, I’m inclined to believe it.

There’s a great interview with Bono where he talks about how hard it is to understand grace. It’s just a foreign concept. Every other religion centers around the idea of karma and reaping what you sow. Even in culture today, we receive punishments or rewards that are proportionate to our actions. But grace takes all of that and turns it on our head. We get spared from all of the bad stuff we deserve and are instead given all kinds of wonderful things that we have no business receiving.

No wonder we try to make forgiveness so hard. No wonder we feel a little frustrated when we’re trying to feel sufficiently penitent and confess all of our sins while God is sitting at our shoulder, interrupting us with a quiet yet strong “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” Nothing in the world works quite like the grace of God.

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4 thoughts on “Easy Forgiveness

  1. When I first started reading this , I thought, ‘Oh no, what kind of hippy dippy stuff is this going to be?’ (By the way, I’m looking at different blogs as an assignment for an on-line workshop that I am in)
    But after reading it, I found it to be very spiritual in a well adjusted kind of way. Good for you!
    Sadly, I think it’s something of a Catch 22. If you are truly contrite, God will forgive just about anything. But these are the people that find it the hardest to be forgiven.
    Then there are those who ask forgiveness but really don’t mean it- like the adulterer who is never going to stop cheating but goes to church and asks for forgiveness even though he knows he’s never going to quit.
    I think it’s important to realise that Jesus forgave his executioners even while they were in the act of killing him. If He can forgive them, He can forgive anybody.
    While you’re checking out churches, don’t forget to check out the Catholic church. I think you would find us fascinating.

  2. Hey Adrienne – glad the blog wasn’t too “hippy dippy” for you :p

    I think your heart definitely needs to be right when you ask for forgiveness. One of my biggest takeaways from the teachings of Jesus is just how important your heart is. You can be doing all the right things, but if your heart doesn’t match those actions, they’re practically worthless.

    I would definitely be interested to visit a Catholic church sometime. I grew up in a nondenominational church, so a lot of the high church liturgy and corporate stuff has been really fascinating to me. I’m pretty settled down and plugged in to a Methodist church right now so it’s hard for me to get away and go on church tours anymore, but maybe I’ll get a chance to do it again sometime.

  3. You know, I love it when God speaks though others, esp. close friends. This is exactly what “the search for significance” has been reminding me of! Guess I really needed to hear it 🙂

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