Why Forgiveness Hurts

November 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve thought often about why forgiving someone is so hard. It isn’t just pride that makes it difficult. True forgiveness requires you to re-live an event that damaged you. That’s often the last thing we want to do. Whatever it is that person did to you must be re-played so that it can be dealt with. You have to face and embrace the reality of the offense before you let it go. Being held hostage by painful and repressed memories and carrying the hatred you may have for the offender is exhausting, so the process of forgiveness—the beginning of the end of all that—is worth the effort. But getting there is painful all over again.

Forgiveness may have been the most painful part of Christ’s suffering on the cross. I’m convinced it was more painful than the physical affliction of scourging and the emotional affliction of ridicule. It may have even rivaled the agony of the Son’s first ever separation from the Father as God had to turn away from the sin Jesus bore (Mat. 27:46). To really understand what Christ went through in forgiving our sin, we have to consider a couple things about God and sin.

Jesus was God, and God is omniscient. God knows everything, and this includes perfect knowledge of every sin, past, present and future.

Moral law comes from God. When we sin, we break God’s moral law, so every sin is a personal offense to God. God is personally offended by every sin of every sinner.

We could estimate some numbers for the math, but it’s enough to say that for Jesus to pay the penalty for all sins (Heb. 9:28) on behalf of all sinners for all time during one slow execution is unimaginable. Jesus, in His divine omniscience and foreknowledge, must have faced and embraced the reality of every past, present and future offense before forever stamping them FORGIVEN.

Skeptics have looked at Christ’s suffering on the cross and wondered how His personal sacrifice was supposed to cover all sin, either by belittling sin or His pain. I don’t wonder about that. I wonder with a heart of thanksgiving at the vastness of God’s love that compelled Him to forgive me, and to endure the pain that it no doubt required.

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