Forgiveness and Grace for the Forgiven

We watched “The Green Mile” last night, it made me think about forgiveness. It’s really interesting how forgiveness seems to work. Let me ask you something, which of these three guys from the movie do you think DESERVE forgiveness, which do you think you could more easily forgive, and which would be the hardest to forgive?

  1. Percy Wetmore, a sadistic and unpopular guard who deliberately sabotages an execution. Instead of wetting the sponge used to conduct electricity, he leaves it dry, causing excruciating pain to the inmate, Eduard “Del” Delacroix. {Side note, don’t you think it’s funny that his last name is WET-MORE, haha, sorry had to point that out.}
  2. William “Wild Bill” Wharton, a violent prisoner (duh – WAR-ton? hehe), due to be executed for multiple murders committed during a robbery. At one point he seizes John Coffey’s arm and John psychically senses that Wharton is the true killer of the two girls, the crime for which John was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.
  3. John Coffey, a “giant” black man convicted of raping and killing two young white girls.  John “takes back” the sickness in Hal’s wife and regurgitates it into Percy, who then shoots Wharton to death and falls into a permanent catatonic state. John, says he “punished them bad men.” He was eventually executed for the crime he did not commit.

So, again, which of these three guys from the movie do you think DESERVE forgiveness, which do you think you could more EASILY forgive, and which would be the HARDEST to forgive? It’s very interesting because I can pretty much guess your answers. But you know what, the bottom line is that they are all murders, period. They all took the life of someone else, some of the victims seem to deserve the punishment more than others, but in the end, lives were taken.

One of the most interesting things is this, if they were real people, you could not ‘forgive’ any of them. HUH? That’s right, technically, you could never completely forgive any of them. Let me explain.

Here is Webster’s definition of ‘forgive’.

stop blaming or grant forgiveness; absolve from payment; typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution; To pardon, to waive any negative feeling or desire for punishment

According to these definitions, you could maybe get to about 10% of forgiveness. You could never absolve them from punishment, cease to demand punishment or restitution, or waive any desire for punishment because, basically, they were all punished with a punishment that could never be taken back – death.

In Matthew 6:12, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray. The word used in this passage translated as forgive means to send forth, in various applications: – cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up. The Amplified version lists these word as a definition: left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against.

You see, in today’s world, we fling the word forgive around almost as badly as we do the word love. And usually the flinger is the one wanting the forgiveness. But when the flinging is going on, the forgiveness that is usually being looked for is closer to Webster’s definition than the Bible’s definition (which is actually God’s definition). What do we tend to want when we want forgiveness? We want someone to stop blaming us, to concluding resentment, indignation or anger, to waive any negative feeling toward us. But that isn’t at all what forgive is supposed to mean. Forgiveness is about letting go of being the one to hand out punishment. It’s about letting go of wanting to hurt or in someway inflict pain or discomfort. It’s about letting go of seeing some type of retribution for what was done.

The other thing we like to over look is that for the one that is ASKING for forgiveness, there are plenty of strings attached, even with God. First, in order to be forgiven, you have to forgive others. If you can not forgive someone else of something, what makes you think you should be forgiven? Second, in order to be forgiven, you have to repent which means to change your ways. You can’t keep coming back and asking forgiveness for the same thing over and over again. Third, you still have to pay for what you have done. We don’t like to think about this, but it is true. With God, the payment will be the blood of Jesus Christ, someone else is paying the price and God is going to let go of the debts you owe because someone else is paying for it.

In human relationships, the one that in many ways pays that price is the one who GIVES the forgiveness. (See Forgive and Forget a note to the Forgiver.) If you have to ask for forgiveness then odds are you have done something wrong to someone else. So when they offer their forgiveness to you, they are saying they are willing to eat the debt you owe or allow someone else to pay it for you. Question for you to consider … Exactly how much debt do you want to be in? If you run up too much debt, sometimes you end up in bankruptcy. If you keep having to ask the same people over and over again for forgiveness, you may just end up in bankruptcy … costing you trust and respect from others. It is really the same with God, that is why Jesus said,

So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! (Revelations 3:16)

And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands]. (Matthew 7:23)

A couple of scripture often quoted when it comes to forgiving is:

Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Or Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

We would like to pull these out and use them, but these are both from the Old Testament (OT) and with the OT we have to remember something else, there had to be blood shed to cover the sins before there was forgiveness. So before you so quickly pull them out, think about that … a bloody death is the cost.

The bull and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies, shall be carried forth without the camp; their skins, their flesh, and their dung shall be burned with fire. (Leviticus 16:27)

Lets move into the New Testament (NT), after all, the OT is the OT and we all know it was violent, bloody, and ritualistic. It is so much more comfortable in the NT and besides, we are really living in the times of the NT.

Romans 3:25 b – … This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment.

And Romans 4:7 – Blessed and happy and to be envied are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered up and completely buried.

Interesting, very similar to the OT isn’t it? At least in the NT we don’t have to sacrifice those animals. Which I am sooo glad of because that much blood would make me really queezy. Sorry folks, but there is blood shed in the NT, we tend to want to over look something, nothing changed from the OT to the NT as far as there having to be blood shed to cover the sins before there is forgiveness.

The next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, Look! There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

God does not forgive nor forget our sins. He can not do that because he is a just God. We like to live in our own little reality of what things are and are not. We like to live a life where we believe we are forgiven of our sins, but we are not. There is ALWAYS a price to pay for our sins. ALWAYS! You see, there will ALWAYS be a price of blood, so blood has to be shed. IF we accept Jesus, then he is the Lamb that is sacrificed for our sins. His blood is the blood that is shed.

What we are really living in right now is GRACE. You see, God hasn’t forgiven us of anything yet, he has just given us a grace period before we have to pay our debt. This grace period is a period of time to see where our hearts truly are. Whether we have truly accepted Jesus Christ and whether we are going to live a life that proves it. Are we going to just talk a talk or walk a walk? Jesus said in John 14:15 as well as many other places throughout the Bible,

If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.

It’s the same in all our relationships, if you really love me then you will …, there is one statement that would cover over everything and that is: If you love me then you will put me above yourself. Hmm, isn’t that one of Jesus’s commandments?

So next time you find yourself saying to someone, “You have to forgive me …” or “Please forgive me for …” Recognize that you just went into to debt a little bit farther and have only entered a grace period. If it’s the same person over and over again, whether it is God or another human being, you could find yourself in bankruptcy and they will then begin to question, “Do you really love me?”

You CAN get out of bankruptcy, it just take a little while, it will cost you, and there are strings attached. Without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you are destine to a bankruptcy that you will never get out of. If you call yourself a Christan and  you ask someone to forgive you, you are in essence saying, “Please let God collect the debt that is owed you”. When they grant you that forgiveness, you are now accountable to God for your actions. Here’s the thing, Jesus Christ can help you with all of this. He can cover over your sins with God with his blood. And he can help you to live a life where you don’t have to be asking for forgiveness over and over again, because when he enters your life, he gives you the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:13

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future].

The only way out from under what you owe is through Jesus Christ, and Jesus has a price for you to pay as well. You have to believe with your heart, confess with your mouth and repent (change your ways). And if you really love him you will keep his commandments, to love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and to love others as yourself.

Oh my, I’m not sure I want to have to ask for forgiveness too much, because I will in essence be accountable to God. I sure am thankful for the grace period He has given me so that I can learn to do better. I sure am thankful for God giving Jesus to pay my blood debt. I sure am thankful for God sending the Holy Spirit to keep me walking in a way that I don’t have to ask for so much forgiveness.

If you are in bankruptcy with God or humans, begin to walk a different walk today. Remember, when you are in bankruptcy, no one owes you anything, you are the one in debt. Use the tools God has given you (Ephesians 2:1-10) to begin to work your way out of bankruptcy, what you can’t pay in the end, Jesus will have you covered if you keep his commandments.

Forgiveness isn’t free, but Grace is.

Titus 2:11-13 (The Message)

11-14God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.


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