“I know God has forgiven me; I just can’t forgive myself.”
I hear people say that. To my shame, I probably have also. I’m almost 51% sure that most folks mean well by it. But I’m 100% sure it’s among the most wrong-headed, arrogant, and idolatrous statements we could ever make.
Do we think it sounds humble? “God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself”? How could that conceivably be confused with humility?
It’s completely encased in arrogant pride as, while we acknowledge that God can and does forgive the sins of others, we’re sure our own sins are so much worse than theirs that, though God has forgiven us, we can’t manage to do the same for ourselves.
Are we really such a better (or worse) class of sinners than the run of the mill, ordinary sort? Are our standards (here comes the idolatry) higher even than God’s who says that through his Son, we’re forgiven?
Will we say, “Thank you, but I doubt that even the blood of your Son can forgive me, Sir. Instead of accepting charity, I choose to wear (if I can find them) a hair shirt, sack-cloth and ashes, and a dour expression. Instead of accepting your gift and focusing on your Son, I’d rather, if you don’t mind, go on gazing at my own navel, allowing the universe to be bordered north, south, east, and west by “I, me, myself, and mine,” and go on playing the victim. If you don’t mind . . .”
Oh, get over it. God minds!
Whatever we intend, this false humility is a stinky thing, a slap in the face of God, a denial of the cross. It can be nothing else.
But someone opines, “I can’t forgive myself. I know God says I’m forgiven, but I don’t feel forgiven.”
Two points. First, why would we ever think we could literally forgive ourselves? Jesus said it: “Only God can forgive sins.” If we’re his, he has done the forgiving at appalling cost; our only choice is to accept the gift or not.
Second, though our Father cares how we feel because he loves us, feelings, for folks as self-centered as we are, easily become our most popular idol. But they’re wrong about as often as they’re right. And they make a rotten god.
If God says we are forgiven, then we are, no matter how we feel. I may feel in my heart of hearts that the moon is green cheese; my feelings won’t change reality at all. But my feelings about forgiveness will affect my ability to live a joyful, gracious, unselfish, and fruitful life.
The Apostle John writes that God is greater than our “anxious hearts” and “self-debilitating criticism” (see 1 John 3:19-20, The Message).
You can’t forgive yourself? So what? If you’re God’s child, accept the gift and dance with joy! Or hold it at arm’s length and wallow around enjoying your role as a poor, pitiful victim. The first choice is life and joy. The second is as boring and tiresome as it is deadly. The first is heaven; the second, hell.
Refusing forgiveness is a lot of things, all bad; the one thing it absolutely is not is humility. God sent, God gave, his Son so we could get over ourselves.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! I’m pretty sure some Christmas music is waiting there, as well as some potential gifts! ;-)
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.