When I was young, I had a very different view of God’s forgiveness. If I sinned or messed up, I wanted to immediately stop what I was doing and pray for God to forgive me. I don’t know if this stemmed from a fear that if I didn’t, that sin would void my salvation or if it was just an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Either way, it wasn’t coming from a good place.
It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that God’s forgiveness happened the moment I asked Christ into my heart. When salvation happened, God forgave me of all my sins—past, present, and future. There’s nothing wrong with admitting when I mess up and asking for forgiveness, but my salvation doesn’t hinge on that. God already forgave me.
I have a four-year old, and that means I deal with my share of frustration at times. She’s a strong-willed child and I’m sure that will do her well in life, but for now, her stubbornness can just make me want hide in the closet with a box of Thin Mints. When she decides she wants to have her way and sasses me or screams or stomps her foot in defiance, do I love her any less than when she’s being sweet as pie?
Absolutely not. In the middle of her mess, I love her.
While she’s crying in time-out, I love her. And before she has the chance to come up to me and apologize and hug me, I love her. My love is unconditional, and so is my forgiveness. You see, she’s mine. She’s my daughter and she has my heart—no matter what. I will always be there with open arms, no matter how many times she messes up. And as many times as she can ask for forgiveness, I’ll freely give it. That’s exactly how God feels about us.
Remember the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)? That kid seemed to do everything wrong. He was rude, disrespectful, and greedy. But more importantly, he was his father’s son.
When he ran home to his father’s house, was his father standing at the door demanding an apology before he would welcome him back? Absolutely not.
The Bible says, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran towards him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The son was sorry, of course, but his father didn’t need to hear those words to show him how much he was loved. A parent’s love is not contingent upon a child’s apology. That apology is simply a sign that the child is turning a corner and heading in a positive direction.
Ever since I started looking at forgiveness from this viewpoint, I feel like my relationship with God is different and better.
I don’t live in fear of messing up or sinning, waiting on God to smite me or turn his back on me. When I mess up, I do still apologize to God. But it comes from my heart, not my fear. I want Him to know that I genuinely want to do better and be better. I look at the situation and try to determine how I could have handled things differently. Instead of trying to earn His forgiveness, I earnestly seek it. And that’s how a child looks at a good, good father.