(Excerpt from a letter)
Psalms 51 has always been my favorite prayer of King David. It is the most honest prayer of repentance that I have ever heard. It is the model by which we should craft our own prayers asking for God’s forgiveness. According to Old Testament law adulterers were to be stoned. Murder to cover up the adultery also would have been a crime with a death penalty. Now no one in Israel would have ever seriously considered stoning the king. But being above the law of man is not the same as being above the law of God. When the prophet Nathan confronted David as recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 David showed why God had made him king in the first place. Unlike Saul who blamed others for his personal failings David accepted responsibility for his actions and immediately repented. In the era of the #METOO movement not one of the celebrities or politicians that has been accused has admitted responsibility in any way let alone given more than a token apology.
C.S. Lewis in “On Forgiveness” from The Weight of Glory says: “Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meaness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That an only that is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.”
There are three parts to this statement. First is the internal perspective in which you as the perpetrator must come to terms with your own actions and rather than excusing or discounting them accept them as wrong and commit to making the necessary changes to move forward. The second is the eternal perspective in which you as the person who has committed the offense must see it as it really is and seek reconciliation with God through repentance. Many people fail at this step. It is one thing to admit a personal failing to yourself. It is another thing entirely to kneel before God and make a solemn plea for forgiveness. The third part is the external perspective in which you must extend the same forgiveness to others as you seek for yourself with God. This step is not even possible without God’s grace.
In the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 Jesus instructs the disciples to pray “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If you can’t forgive others for the hurt they have inflicted on you how can you expect God to forgive you for what you’ve done? This is what separates Christians from other people. Forgiveness is the cornerstone to reconciliation. Without reconciliation there can be no relationship between two people separated by the gulf of hurt, shame, anger, and retribution. Reconciliation is a foreign concept in todays legal system and the reason why it has failed. Most 12-Step programs have a step in which you need to seek forgiveness from those you’ve wronged (if possible). But they also go on to say that even if the other person won’t forgive you that’s their choice. You must move forward in your life. If the other person choses not to forgive then they are choosing to live in the past and continue to give someone else power over them. Forgiveness breaks the bonds that are holding a person back from healing and moving forward.
Psalms 51:10-13 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit in me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit away from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.” My prayer for you is that you would have a spirit willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto the joy that only a relationship with God can provide.
Your Brother in Christ