Processional Forgiveness and The Lost Virtue

Long ago in a galaxy far away, I went to a very fundamental, very conservative school. We had 7th-12th grade chapel 3 times a week, with a rotating list of pastors and speakers. As clear as the type face in this article, I can still remember this phrase spoken by one of the speakers at our chapel.

"I'm sorry, I was wrong."

It was spoken in context of when we sin against each other. For my middle school years I thought that was in essence the words of forgiveness, but the realization of Biblical forgiveness has left that phrase lacking. So hear are a few steps that have really been helpful to me as God has brought His word to bear in my life.

Step 1:The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennet used to sit on one of my grandmom's end tables, mostly for decoration I think. All told it has some good stories for kids about many virtues, but in keeping with our Western world values it misses one virtue...HUMILITY. This is where forgiveness starts.

Step 2: (when we sin against someone) Martin Luther in his famous Wittenburg graffiti started off his Protestant Reformation (if only he knew) paper with this simple concept: The Christian life of one marked by humble repentance. That's cause he also knew it was marked by prideful sin. Feel free to include I'm sorry,I was wrong in your forgiveness request, but follow it up with, will you forgive me? I'm sorry I was wrong is only good by itself when you make a mistake (i.e. Spill soda on someone, cut someone you didn't see off while driving to work, etc), not when you sin.

Sometimes we think that being ready to forgive means the person is forgiven, but that is not true. (Click to tweet)

Step 2: (if sinned against) Be ready to forgive, and if necessary confront. To quote Rex from Toy Story "I don't like confrontation!", but seriously I don't. Of these two I am far more willing to readily forgive than to confront, but that darn Jesus who loves me so well is always confronting me with His Bible...ever have a similar experience? NOTE: Sometimes we think that being ready to forgive means the person is forgiven, but that is not true. Being ready to forgive requires us to humbly give up our feelings of vengeance, or retribution, and to complete the process requires the need for humility on the part of the one who committed the transgression initially. Also, just because the process is complete doesn't mean trust and relationship must resume as it was previously. There are times when the sin demands trust be rebuilt from the ground up, and the relationship may need to stop for a season and resume in a dramatically different way then previously. Don't let the process of forgiveness lead you to foolishness.

 Just because the (forgiveness) process is complete, doesn't mean trust and relationship must resume as it was previously. (Click to tweet)

Step 3: You cannot forget. God cannot forget. When we place our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. God then views our sin through the lens of the atoning work of His Son. When the process of forgiveness has taken place you must view the forgiven sin of the offender through the lens of the Love of Jesus that He has for you and the offender.(**Remember previous "Also" comment) If you have been forgiven, don't let guilt and shame shape your life. Instead, let the forgiveness and love extended remind you of the Cross that saves you. Remember, Paul tells us that "It is your Kindness Lord that Leads us to Repentance". Let the Cross "spur you on to love and good works" that change who you were to who God calls you to be.