Monday, August 17, 2015

Pastoralia: Forgiveness

Pastoralia: Things having relation to spiritual care or guidance; the duties of a pastor.
 Oxford English Dictionary

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Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Last time, prompted by the prayer above, I wrote about mercy. Today, we’re still looking at the same phrase, but the other part of it: ‘forgive me’. What does that mean? When I pray this part of the prayer what am I asking God to do? What is this forgiveness that I am requesting?

Some think of forgiveness in terms of not being punished for their sin. Others, who may not think in terms of divine punishment, consider this more like asking God not to hold that sin against them. I’d like to suggest that the idea of forgiveness is more than either of these. What I’m asking God to do is to forget that I ever sinned. This is asking for more than not being punished or not holding that sin against me because in both of those cases He just might remember what I’ve done. And while He may not punish me or hold it against me, the memory of that sin just might affect His relationship with me in the future because the sin is still there.

Now, is asking God to forget what I did asking too much? Not at all. And I can say that with confidence because that’s exactly what God has promised to do. Here’s just one example.
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43
Now, what’s this about? Amnesia? (Can God even have amnesia?) No, it’s not amnesia. But it is a promise to forget all about that sin, to act toward me as if it never happened. And He can do that because of Jesus. 

Believing this gives me peace. God will never bring up some old sin of mine. He refuses to let it affect our relationship. Refuses. And that is true even if I sin in the same way again. He will never say, ‘Have you done that again?!?’, and then wonder what He should do about it. Forgiven sin is forgotten sin. And because of that I can live confidently since things between me and my God are good. They are always good.

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