Forgiveness based on God’s Mercy or our Merit
“I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
If I follow our culture’s promotion of relativism, then do I need to ask forgiveness when what I think is right clashes with what my friend thinks is right? Who is right: my friend or me? Who needs to ask for forgiveness? This is where the principles of relativism fail when it is put into practice in real relationships. It might sound good, but it does not work. Without an understanding of forgiveness relationships fail. You were never loved because you were perfect; instead you were loved in your brokenness.
Did your parents love you because you were perfect? Uh, we know the answer to that: No. I spent my share of recesses in timeout and was grounded at inopportune times. Then what about those friends who have been with you through the highs and lows of life? They did not stick with you because you were a perfect friend but because even when you failed or let them down, love endured. Those who have been forgiven much forgive easily, and those who have been loved much forgive easily.
This kind of forgiveness is birthed from an understanding of Biblical forgiveness. How might you answer this question: How do you view God?
- Is He a stern judge who is waiting for you to mess up?
- Is He like an authority figure whose standards you consistently never meet?
- Is He a deity who accepts everyone into Heaven regardless of his or her faith in Jesus Christ?
- Is he a distant God uninvolved in the affairs of men?
No matter who you are everyone struggles with his or her misperceptions of God. In particular it is hard to wrap our minds around the truth that God’s love for us never changes based on our actions. God’s love for us is based on the grace given through faith in Jesus’s work on the cross freeing us from the condemnation of our sins.
Let’s look at Abraham, Peter, and David. All are men of faith and really messed up. Abraham decided that he could not wait on God for the son that He had promised, so he used Hagar. Then on another occasion he lied to King Abimelech, saying his wife, Sarah was his sister. It seems from the above examples that He wavered in his faith, but the Bible says, “he did not waver in unbelief” (Romans 4:20). Remember by faith God credited Abraham righteous or “ declared him in right standing before God” (Romans 4:3; James 2:23). Righteousness does not come from obeying the law but through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3: 21-22). Yes, Abraham still sins, but God no longer holds his sins against him through the shed blood of Christ.
The fact that we still sin does not mean we waver in our faith. I am so thankful that God’s acceptance of me is not based on my performance because I can’t think of a single person who does not struggle with sin. Then there is Peter who denied Jesus three times in Matthew 26:69-75, and He is one whom God said earlier in Matthew: “And I tell that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (16:18). Even though David sinned greatly having Uriah, the Hittite killed to take Bathsheba as his wife, God still speaks of David as “a man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). We can’t do enough good things to earn God’s love. Forgiveness is not based on our merit but God’s mercy; therefore, we can more easily forgive others.