What is forgiveness? Part One

By Rev. Daniel McLean, Ph.D. - Religion Writer

Forgiveness, what is it? As a child in third grade I had a group of boys I hung out with. We had a fort as we called it in the woods near our neighborhood. Near the path we took into the woods they began to build a house. One day they had it all closed in but they did not lock the doors. We had been looking inside and tried a door and found it open. We found some amazing things. We found several huge boxes of chocolate candies. Of course we tried them but we were disgusted with the jelly filling so we threw it and it hit the wall. Everyone thought that was a great idea, and it snowballed.

We found cans of paint but could not get the lids off, so we took a trowel and punctured them. Then we picked up the cans and spun around the room spreading paint on everything and laughing so hard our sides hurt. We carried a sink out to our fort. I found a ball point pen that I put in my pocket and went home. My mom greeted me at the door asking where I had been. In that moment I realized I did not want to tell her what I had been doing because there was this gut level check of guilt. I knew I had done wrong. I lied. She asked where I got the pen. But she did not believe my lie. Crash!!! I was caught, we were caught, my parents called the police!!

We know when we do something wrong. You can see it in how instantly, instinctively people hide it. The desire to hide says we know that it is wrong. Why are most crimes committed at night? People love darkness instead of light. They love darkness because what they do is evil. Everyone who does evil deeds hates the light. They will not come into the light. They are afraid that what they do will be seen. And the next thing we normally do is lie to cover it up.

You know a simple lie is a person’s first experience with a break in reality. Your brain knows what happened, yet your will forces your mouth to say something different. Is this a step toward mental illness? Lies are often compounded by more lies. And all of this wrong, these lies build up inside us and become a heavy weight of guilt. Is this guilt good or bad? It is definitely painful and hard to live with, but it depends on what you do with the guilt. Is this guilt make believe? No, it is real. How does one get rid of this guilt? Some psychologists have invented ways to help you cover it up like sweeping dirt under a rug or to bury it like unseen cancer. But it refuses to go away and makes problems bigger and bigger. It often destroys your peace and your life.

There is really only one way to get rid of the guilt. Only one way. This way has been proven true again and again. I can tell you it worked in my life. Two steps. First step, bring it into the light by telling God what you did, admitting you knew you were wrong, and ask him to forgive you because Jesus paid the penalty for you. But if we freely admit our sins when His light uncovers them, He will … forgive us every time. You must believe that He will forgive you. Everyone who believes in him is set free from sin and guilt. Second step, if what you said was true in your heart and not just words, your actions will change. You will choose to do right. You will turn away from focusing on your desires. You will try to repair the damage you have done.

Only one way. It works. Do you have a boatload of guilt you are tired of carrying around? Is it eating your lunch? Take step one then step two.

There are six acts of forgiveness that we need to fully heal from all of the ways we have been hurt and from all of the things we have done to hurt others. This article describes the first and most important act, Seek God’s Forgiveness. It is most important because it begins to heal the most important relationship and gives you the power to finish the other acts. Next week the second act of forgiveness.

For more help call Pastor Dan, 740-239-3539, Court House Nazarene Church.

By Rev. Daniel McLean, Ph.D.

Religion Writer