It occurred to me today how selfish even seeking forgiveness can often be. No specific Bible verse or song or anything particularly “Christian” called this to mind. I was simply minding my own business (literally attending to my business at work) when it struck me. It may not be unique or the first time you heard it, but it was the first time I had, so praise God for revealing further to me my own depravity (despite my unrighteousness efforts to conceal it from God, myself, and others).
We all want to be forgiven for our own selfish sake. More often than not our pleas for pardon are not born from humility, but gluttony. It is something we want for ourselves. But what about for the sake of the one whom we have wronged? We recognize our need to be forgiven from the one with power to grant it, but we often fail to observe the effort and grace required of the hurt one to forgive (and that coming by grace from the One with the power to infuse and inspire it).
We beg for forgiveness, for reconciliation, and all for our own sake - caring little, if at all (maybe only in passing) for the one whom we have wronged. I am not talking about the effects of our sin. We do worry about that. We do often pray and hope that the sinned against will be released and restored from the state in which they were placed by our sin, but almost exclusively superficially. We hope the wounds we cause will heal. We quickly and rightly recognize our need to be forgiven, but we slowly, if ever, recognize the sinned against’s need to forgive. The soul of the one sinned against is equally at stake in that they must forgive you in order to be forgiven by God. It is not just us who sinned that are in peril as a result of our sin.
As the sinner, one rarely concerns themselves with this reality. The sinner rarely makes their appeal for pardon based on the sinned against’s need to be absolved of bitterness and anger, but rather the sinner’s need to sleep easier at night by absolution. Both are weights that are carried as a result of sin and both require the grace of God to be lifted entirely. Sin affects not only the sinner, but the sinned against.
The point is this: Often even in our attempts to request forgiveness, we reaffirm our commitment only to ourselves and our salvation and our reconciliation. We turn a interpersonal reconciling into an intrapersonal cleansing. We started by sinning against the other out of selfish desire or indifference and end by seeking forgiveness out of selfish desire and indifference to the other person.
We cannot bare to wear the scars of our own making and we simply want it removed with no thought or care often to the cost or effort of the other to offer the forgiveness we request.
I do not care what it costs you to forgive me, just forgive me! I want my fine paid, my penalty pardoned, my guilt absolved, my conscience cleared. I want all of these things and more often than not my thoughts do not gravitate beyond my wanting them.
I do not care what it costs you to forgive me, just do it. My forgivness is not about you, it is about me. So in the end even, the sin I commited against you is only my concern in that it leads me to this place where I beg something from you. You were never my concern: in the first, in the last.
It cost Jesus everything to purchase my pardon and redeem my wrtechedness. It cost Him everything that it might cost me nothing. But I do not care about Jesus' burden as long as my burden is absorbed. And I do not care about my brother as long as he has no charge against me.
Forgiveness entirely for the sake, in the Name, in the confidence, and to the glory of Christ alone is observed only when the sinner seeks forgiveness that their brother may be restored and their Savior exalted.
2 Corinthians 2:10-11
10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”