What does it mean to be forgiven our sins? Growing up it was always about wiping away the slate – sort of erasing from the black board all the embarrassing things we’d written there before anyone say. It’s good, but it seems to be missing something.
Even if we forgive there’s one more part to the whole process. We have to go forward.
Now I cannot speak to the horrors that are out there and the unbelievable almost unspeakable things that can be done to other human beings. There’s pain there that I truly don’t know, and even the psalms that unleash venom might not be cathartic enough to speed recovery. But if we keep living there in the pain, we’re letting that become our reality.
At the Holocaust Museum in Dallas, TX, I met a survivor named Max. He weaved his story of the Holocaust fairly quickly, but then he went on to say that for years he blamed the Germans with a hot anger. Over time he developed stomach cancer, and surgeons removed half his stomach. His anger still burned and made him sick to his stomach. The cancer returned and they removed the other half of the stomach. The hatred still burned in his gut. Colon cancer developed, and the doctors took part of that as well.
Then he said to himself, “Max… Being angry at the Germans isn’t doing anything to them…. But it just might kill you.” He forgave them after decades in anger that any of us would consider justified.
Forgiveness is about being able to go forward. If we get locked up in our own sins, we cannot seek God. If we get locked up in the wrongs done to us, we cannot seek God. But alone we cannot get unlocked from our sins and I have doubts about whether we can really forgive those who wrong us.
When Christ says he forgives sins, I think immediately of the passage of Paul’s when he tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. That freedom is the freedom to move forward to seek forgiveness from those who we wrong and forgive those who wrong us that we might all move forward towards God.