“I forgive you, if . . .” is not.
That’s the conclusion we reached last evening as we talked about grace and forgiveness in our weekly Bible Study. (This fall we’re studying What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey.)
When someone has hurt us, it is our human nature to insist on the other person’s contrition before we forgive them. They have to say they’re sorry – and really, really mean it. They have to make things “right.” They have to grovel. Or something. Because we deserve it, by golly!
But if we define grace as the gift of forgiveness, then adding any conditions makes it something other than grace. It’s not a gift if you have to earn it.
Grace means we make the first move. We forgive before it’s asked for and before it’s deserved. We forgive even though it might never be asked for or deserved.
That’s the way God forgives us.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)
There are no “if’s” to God’s forgiveness. We are saved by grace. Period.
God always makes the first move.
God does not say, “I will forgive you IF you say you’re sorry and really mean it.” Nor does God say, “I will forgive you IF you follow the rules.”
In fact, God does not say, “I will forgive you” at all.
God simply says, “You ARE forgiven.”
That’s the Gospel.
(Tomorrow, I’ll answer some of the questions and objections I hear when I teach or preach about grace. Stay tuned . . .)