“All should be forgiven, and the thoughtless especially.” — Leo Tolstoy, Where Love Is (New York, 1915), page 20.
From Ray Ortlund, at The Gospel Coalition blog:
The Lord taught us to forgive at two levels.
Deep in our hearts, forgiveness is unconditional, since God has forgiven us: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This forgiveness is absolute, before God.
At the level of our relationships, forgiveness is conditional: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). After all, how can one forgive a sin that hasn’t been confessed? For the relationship to be restored, the sinning brother must repent.
But what if he doesn’t repent? Or doesn’t even realize the harm he has done? Sadly, the relationship remains broken. But deep within, “. . . and the thoughtless especially.” This is the most costly forgiveness, because it is unseen, unthanked.
But God sees. As in everything else, all that ultimately matters is who God is, what God says, how God works.
I think about this a lot because I think there a lot of people who look at Christianity as living daily to deny yourself some pleasure without going any further. C.S. Lewis addresses this kind of thinking in The Weight of Glory when he says that we are far too easily pleased, settling for the temporal joys of this world instead of striving for the eternal pleasures that we are offered through Jesus Christ. Because we don’t understand the magnitude of pleasure in Jesus, we don’t understand why we need to hate our sin. Timothy Keller, in Counterfeit Gods, does a great job explaining why this matters:
“In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose it’s attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us fom sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”
Anything that keeps me from achieving the greatest amount of joy (in Christ) — my sin — is not something I want to protect but instead should be hated and left behind.
HT: Of First Importance