When Jesus was led off to be crucified, he said:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
~Luke 23:34 (NRSV)
We will all struggle for forgiveness. Not that God limits our forgiveness, but our guilt and our shame, and our preconceptions of our wrongness, interminably hold us back. We don’t imagine grace being enough. We tend to limit grace.
Then, in the instant of experiencing a fuller measure of this abundantly merciful grace, we at last grasp that there are no conditions to it, other than our full commitment to repent.
But often we will come back to it—this limiting of grace—because we don’t know what we are doing. In moments of being deceived, and all of us are prone, we need to be forgiven for that which we do not, momentarily, know.
The Fullness Of God’s Forgiveness
For those who have been forgiven once by God, that forgiveness applies eternally. There is no limiting of the fullness of God’s forgiveness. And this is fortunate for us, especially for those times when we are out of our Christian minds. Many are those.
But the facts of forgiveness and the experience of forgiveness are two separate things.
Despite our doubting and comprehensibility of the facts of our forgiveness, we also need to feel forgiven. Our experience must match the fact. This is one of the reasons why prayer is so effective. By prayer we can rest in the knowledge that the fact is the fact.
We can pray, “Lord, forgive me,” any time we wish. Then we experience forgiveness. The fact of forgiveness is reinforced.
And this is merely paying credence to the fact that any sin relating to another human being, or a sin against ourselves for that matter, is a sin against God, primarily. But God’s grace covers all repented-for sin.
Knowing We Have Sinned And Seeking Forgiveness
We rarely intentionally sin without feeling guilty about it. But we often sin unintentionally, and only realise as we later reflect—as the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. We still feel guilty, and if we don’t think of forgiveness we may continue to feel guilty.
But when we think of forgiveness we think almost immediately of restitution—of making things right, as much as we can. That’s the point of forgiveness: to compel us to think, feel and then repent.
Knowledge of transgression is a powerful thing. There is the poignancy of shame, but there is, equally, the absolutism of God’s mercy to help us feel and know we are forgiven.
A most important spiritual state is to know what we are doing. Mindfulness is our best weapon against spiritual warfare. Mindfulness can bring us back to understand the abundance in God’s grace; that the experience of forgiveness is just one prayer away.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Sidmak.