Forgiveness. It’s a basic concept for every Christian. This is the message of the “Good News”: through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, God offers us forgiveness. Christ took on our sins so we could be reconciled with God, now and eternally. Our sins will no longer be held against us, and we are free from condemnation! Although forgiveness is offered to us as a free gift, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost us something. How could something free cost us something? Although God’s forgiveness is free, we may choose to not accept it because of the costs. The debt of our sin is paid, but accepting the Lord’s forgiveness costs us some things we may not be willing to abandon.
It costs us our dignity to admit our sin — that we are helpless before God without Christ’s redemption. We would do anything to save face rather than stand before God and confess our sins and accept His forgiveness. We like to believe we can pay our own way to redemption. It is humbling to come before God, desperate for His grace.
Forgiveness also costs us our unbelief. Jesus often told men and women who came to Him, “Your faith has made you well.” There are so many of us who believe in the concept of forgiveness but can’t accept it for ourselves. There is something—an abortion, sexual sin, a mistake with a child, divorce — (insert your sin here), where we allow ourselves to believe it’s beyond God’s desire and ability to forgive. God’s forgiveness just doesn’t make sense to our logical minds. Intuitively, we know that when we have sinned, we deserve consequences. Without realizing it, we often “sentence ourselves” to periods of depression and guilt to compensate for what we have done. We may sabotage relationships and gifts that could bring us pleasure because we know we don’t deserve such good things. This is why it requires faith to walk in this truth: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
Forgiveness costs us our sense of justice. If God promises to forgive me, then His redemption is also available to people who have done horrible things. That means forgiveness is possible for murderers, child abusers, and others who we believe deserve the hottest places in hell. On a more personal level, it means extending forgiveness to people who have hurt us deeply. Forgiveness fights against every desire we have for justice. Embracing forgiveness doesn’t mean ignoring our cry for justice. Instead, we put our faith in a righteousness that is beyond our understanding.
God asks us, not as a condition for our own forgiveness, but in turn, to forgive others just as we have been forgiven. While walking in forgiveness is costly, refusing to accept or extend it has a much higher price tag. It is really hard to forgive, whether it is forgiving yourself or others. We all could use some help learning to do it better. Learning to forgive is good for both our mental and physical health. When we are better at forgiveness, we experience lower stress, tension, levels of depression, anxiety, and, perhaps most important, anger. When we have trouble being able to forgive, we hold in anger, resentment, and bitterness that can harm us in multiple ways and at multiple levels. Although it may seem to cost too much to embrace it, true forgiveness is the only gateway to freedom — freedom to love deeply and to live authentically.