Some weeks feel like a Back Page drought. Such was this week, until I ran across a fresh Tweet in my feed. I just started following Chad Bird (@birdchadlouis), scholar in residence at @1517, a group dedicated to defending the Good News that we are forgiven and free on account of Christ alone. I find him profound, the kind of thinker I can only hope to become.
I share his words verbatim because I could not improve the phrasing. He talks of The Myth of Self-forgiveness. Have you ever wrestled with forgiving yourself? It is impossible, by the way. It is the hope of full forgiveness in Jesus which makes our true religion so unique in this world. At the heart of true religion is the work of Jesus. Without the cross, there is only religion, which accomplishes nothing. But listen to Chad Bird:
Forgiving yourself is not only impossible; it is dangerous and futile. It is the vain attempt of souls plagued by guilt to seek relief in the very last place they should be looking: in themselves.
To “forgive yourself,” is the equivalent of telling a dying person, “heal yourself.” Absolution, like medicine comes from outside of you, from the hand of a healer.
Our problem is not a lack of “self-forgiveness,” but that we never believed that God had forgiven us. That’s the issue. We delude ourselves into supposing that God supplied 80% of the forgiveness, and now it’s our responsibility to come up with the other 20%. The Lord did his part, “I forgive you,” and now we need to do our part, “I forgive myself.”
In the end, we make ourselves into the human tail wagging the divine dog.
When God forgives, he forgives completely. There is no deficiency, no 20%, no 10%, no .000000001% of absolution that we need to manufacture to wrap up the deal.
All the dark deeds that bring ruin and disaster upon marriages and families and careers; all the lies and deceit; all the shame and heartache and regret that befall us afterwards – all of that God forgave in one fell swoop, because he transferred all of that evil upon a perfectly righteous man who willingly gave his life in our stead.
Rest peacefully in the only absolution that ultimately matters: The one Jesus himself gives from his ugly cross of beautiful love.
Perfect sacrifice. Perfect love. Perfect forgiveness.
If you want to follow my amazing Twitter account (nothing but re-Tweets) I’m @pvpastor. And I’d recommend giving Chad Bird a follow, although you might hear echoes of his writings from time to time in our pulpit.