As PZ has been on the road recently, his newest podcast episodes will be released at the beginning of December. As for this week, the blog will be gearing down for the holiday, but this morning we bring you a timely devotional from Javier Garcia, a poignant reminder of this message by which we live and for which we give thanks.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit….
I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin…
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
The notion of forgiveness doesn’t make any sense. Vengeance is the most obvious, effective and pressing of the impulses that arise when someone has wronged us. This vengeance manifests in different forms but always multiplies the wrong done at least tenfold. I, for one, have perfected the lengthy grudge. No forgiveness until the other person recognizes their fault and grovels at my proverbial feet. Then I might acquiesce, lift them up, and give them another chance, just so long as they show enough remorse and intention not to repeat the transgression. Maybe you know the drill? Cold shoulder, silent treatment, pointed glares, or, for the seasoned veteran, no eye contact whatsoever and only indirect address to the person in the dock. Condescension is key. This lasts until either the sinner repents or, well, I get tired of the effort, and remember not to forget the episode for future reference; a type of collateral, if you will. Always have to let the other person know they have a storehouse of past faults to keep them eating out of your hand – it’s the only way to win.
Funnily enough (surely, none of you have experienced this…), family life is where my vengeance explodes. This summer I have come home and have been crashing at my parents’ apartment in New York City. Almost everyday there is at least some sort of confrontation and a new cycle of grudges commences. The effort is exhausting and I lose track of my whole method, but forgiveness, again, is out of the question. I mean, I would have to keep forgiving them because it won’t end. And, they’ll take it as license to keep doing it! God forbid, I would even have to ask for forgiveness.
There is an old joke that a man, after drinking vodka and tonic, rum and tonic and gin and tonic and getting drunk each time figures it all out and says, “It must be the tonic!” This is a description of our stance toward forgiveness.
Behind our evasion tactics, our blame shifting, our tailored strategies of vengeance (whatever the poison you prefer); behind our never ending ploys to justify ourselves, prove ourselves and showcase how right we are; behind all of it, there is the poorest, most tortured sufferer that thirsts for freedom, for respite, for hope. This can only be found in the blessedness of being forgiven by God. The alien nonsense of forgiveness, coming from the wholly exterior work of the cross is the only solution to the truth that we are most at fault and need to be forgiven. For the colossal mistakes we make, the piling high of daily sins we commit (both knowingly and unknowingly), the wilderness of our essential brokenness, which all merits punishment beyond hell, cosmic forgiveness is the only escape.This passage tells us of the unconditional promise that God’s forgiveness is all encompassing and assured beyond measure. To those whom God is gracious to grant repentance and faith, allowing them to see their horrible condition and look to him for salvation, forgiveness is an overflowing fount that cannot be quenched. God doesn’t play games with us, he doesn’t hold things against his children, or toy with their dependence on him. Instead, the Father points to the cross and says “Take this forgiveness! It is for you! Behold the blood of my most Holy Son, it is for you! Know that your sins are covered, that I forget them, I banish them because of Christ. Come and believe and receive freely what I give to you, for your redemption and life and my Glory. And do this every day, even when you sin most against me! My grace for you is never ending.”