The most important word - part 3
What is the nature of divine forgiveness and why do we need it? The short answer from a Christian perspective is because the Bible teaches the concept from beginning to end. Genesis tells us of the fall from grace and the story of redemption and forgiveness is the main message of Scripture, culminating in the triumphal return of Jesus Christ when He erases sin from the equation of humanity and eternity.
The longer answer will, I hope, cause us to examine our hearts a little more closely.
It is not hard to look around us today or look into times past and discover that something is seriously wrong with the human condition. We are living in a world ripe with evil, hatred, bitter (and ancient) grudges, and unforgiving spirits.
But turn the dial closer to home and look into our own hearts. What is it about humanity that causes us to feel a sense of guilt? Why does a child blush when they are caught in a lie? What makes a toddler grab a toy away from another or hit a playmate for taking what he deems his?
Why is there evidence even from ancient times of peoples who offered sacrifices to their gods in order to appease them, to seek forgiveness? Do not most religions today offer the worshipper some way to do penance, to find relief from guilt, freedom from wrongs they've committed?
What is that sense within us that produces a guilty conscience? Or seeks absolution at the end of one's life?
If we are willing to look at it again, the Bible does give a plausible and perhaps the best answer to that question. For though evolutionary thought can suggest these emotions are somehow leftover from our ancestors, then where did our ancestors get them? If we evolved from lower life forms, where did sin or guilt come from? Why the sense (laws or no laws) of right and wrong?
God calls that inner struggle sin. It's a condition we are born with (blame it on Adam), but one we don't have to die with. In fact, it's one of the only things about us that we have a choice to change if we are willing.
From the time we are born and without the help of modern technology or serious surgery, we can't change the color of our skin, where we were born, our parental heritage, our gender, our hair color, the shape and color of our eyes, our height, our build, our DNA, our physical makeup. We can't even really change our personalities, whether we are introverted or extroverted and a zillion other things about what makes us who we are. In most of these things we didn't get to choose.
That doesn't mean we can never change. But true change starts with honesty and effort and at a heart level it has to address that most important word--forgiveness. For if we are honest with ourselves, we know we all need to be forgiven. We might not understand from whom to seek that forgiveness or why we need it, but I daresay we know we need it. Unless we are completely cold and hard-hearted. We wouldn't feel the need to apologize to another person if we never felt guilty for hurting that person.
And in the end it comes down to apologizing, acknowledging, admitting to God our need of His forgiveness for the sins we commit, for the darkness within us, for that sense of inner struggle in our hearts that causes us to keep thinking, saying, doing things we know aren't right. Things that fall short of what He made us to be.
To err is human. To err is sin.
But God forgives because that is who He is. And because of what Jesus accomplished when He came to earth, He can.
Conclusion to come.