I do some marriage counseling with both Christians and those who don’t yet know Christ. In the process, I’ve found that forgiveness is just as much a problem with “believers” as it is with those who have never received God’s forgiveness.
While reading Luke 17 the other day, I noticed for the first time how the ability to forgive was considered a matter of faith to Jesus and his disciples. After Jesus told them to forgive a brother 7 times a day if necessary, they asked him to increase their faith. Jesus said that if they had trust and confidence in God as little as a grain of mustard seed they could tell a mulberry tree that was growing next to them to be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey!
When one considers that the divorce rate among Christians is as high as or higher than among “unbelievers” it becomes obvious that trust in God is at an all time low. But that’s not surprising. Most Christians who feel safe to confide in a friend or counselor admit that they don’t really believe that God loves them. Oh, they “know” it from an intellectual standpoint, but in their heart of hearts they’ve allowed adverse circumstances, guilt and shame to convince them otherwise.
Many Christians have few if any intimate friends, so when they sit in “church” on Sunday morning and see how spiritual everyone else looks and acts, they feel like the only one with big problems. Religion is great at covering everything ugly with a shiny veneer, but reality hits each one in the face right outside the door. We become burdened down by focusing on our own shortcomings and begin to see others through the same lenses.
God so loved the world that he made a way of forgiveness through the cross of Christ. We can only forgive as we have been forgiven. We can receive forgiveness only as we understand that we cannot possibly merit it. God demonstrated his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Somehow we get it into our mind that since he paid such a price for our salvation we must now strive to be worthy of his love. Yet he loved us when we lived only for ourselves and ignored him completely!
The natural outworking of receiving such amazing love is adoring trust of the One who loves you. It’s that trust (faith) that makes forgiveness possible. A three year old child’s simple trust in her parent’s love and provision has no relationship to her behavior or performance, so she doesn’t yet struggle with forgiving or being forgiven. She won’t begin analyzing things until she’s older and has had a few bites from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Love covers a multitude of sins. Knowing that we’re the object of Father’s love and affection irrespective of our failings is a wonderful, liberating truth of his kingdom. It opens our eyes to see how much God is for us and cancels out the need for vindication towards those who’ve sinned against us. Living loved keeps our focus on the Source who has destroyed the power of sin and granted us the gift of His faith.
David Fredrickson is involved in the writing and producing aspect of Family Room Media. He enjoys meeting with individuals or groups who are longing to be free from religious bondage and often comes alongside pastors and leaders who are wanting to move away from a religious approach to church life. David is also a certified counselor specializing in marriage and family counseling.