Learning forgiveness

By Leonard Lauriault

As the leading character of the Revolutionary War movie, “The Patriot,” Mel Gibson had been a brutal soldier in the French and Indian War. Upon losing his second son during the Revolution, he made the following statement “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me and the cost is more than I can bear.”

Some of my past sins came to mind recently. I’ve always looked older than my age to some people. When I was younger, this allowed me to go places and do things my peers couldn’t do, leading me to have a somewhat checkered past.

The reminding event occurred when I went to a family buffet in another city where you pay in advance. When I was finished, I checked the receipt to calculate the tip and noticed that I’d been given the senior discount. Nothing was said about this when I paid to get in. The nice, young-looking cashier either pushed the wrong button (I wish) or, more likely, she decided that I rated the discount because my few remaining hairs are gray. While this reminded me of some of the sins I’d committed because I looked older than I was, it also reminded me that I’ve been forgiven of those past sins. Christians must never forget this because forgiveness gives us hope for the future (2 Peter 1: 3-11; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11).

Now that I’m older, and should be more mature acting, sometimes I don’t act my age and my present also becomes checkered. When I come to my senses after those occasions, remembering who I am (a child of God), and become concerned about my present sins, I also realize that if I’ve been forgiven of my past sins, I can be forgiven of my present sins as well by simply repenting and asking God (Luke 15: 11-23).

That’s a very significant difference between Christians and non-Christians. There’s no prayer, or even any hint of one in the New Testament telling us to ask Jesus into our heart to become a Christian – to be forgiven of our past sins (since there’s nothing in the New Testament about this, no references can be given; I can, however, give you references where the Bible says how to get the forgiveness that puts you into the right relationship with God and the privilege of continuing to receive forgiveness through prayer as a Christian – one of his children: Acts 2: 38, 39; 22: 16; Galatians 3: 26-4: 7; Romans 8: 9-17, 26, 27; 1 John 1: 5-2: 2; Hebrews 4: 14-16).
While God stands ready to forgive and wants to forgive, that shouldn’t be a basis for sinful living. For God to hear our prayers, we must try to live on his terms.

God says that if we hide our sins they’ll eventually surface (Numbers 32: 23; 1 Timothy 5: 24; Hebrews 4: 13). Sometimes they resurface even though we’ve confessed them to him and received forgiveness. Those times, however painful, should remind us that we’ve been forgiven rather than becoming Satan’s attempt to get us to give up on ourselves and God (Revelation 12: 10, 11).
Our forgiveness is so important to God that he doesn’t want us to make assumptions about it. So, he’s spelled out clearly how we can get it. We just need to follow his directions – be baptized for forgiveness and then just ask out of repentance. If we’ll do that, we need not fear that our past or present.

Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ