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Is Anything Beyond Forgiveness?
I wonder if God bothers to keep track of how well human beings perform here on earth. If he does, it seems like he would need a massive computer with sophisticated software to help him remember how we're doing. Maybe he uses a point system to track sins. If that's the case, he's probably got a complex mathematical formula to calculate all the trouble we cause.
So what's God's scheme? Maybe something like this: There are little sins can they even be counted as real sins? like telling a white lie to make someone feel better about her bad hair day or sharing a bit of gossip picked up at the water cooler to satisfy someone's curiosity. No one seems too alarmed by these indiscretions there's no harm done here. The tracking system might assign only a few points to those 'mistakes.' Let's say they get a 1 or 2. You're only in trouble when you get a lot of them piled up over time.
The points start to add up more quickly with weightier sins.
Think back to when you lied to your seventh-grade teacher to get out of detention, peeked at Sally Goodman's test answers during Chemistry, or stole a candy bar from the soccer snack bar. Those should get more points than a white lie. Let's say you earn 10, 12,
or 14 points for those.
Then there are those arguable sins, the things that one person sees as a sin and another person laughs about as nothing. What about eating ten more crab legs at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet,
even though you weren't hungry: One person calls it gluttony
35 points? while someone else calls it a great deal for the money no points, only calories!
You called someone a name that shouldn't be repeated in mixed company. You noticed that the person felt wounded. What do you think, maybe a 56? But then if you were to actually hit or punch a person, how much worse would that be? 62 points? Unless you're boxing, of course that's zero.
Then there are the big ones. How about stealing stuff worth over a thousand dollars? What about sleeping with someone else's husband? Are those in the upper 90s? They'd better be!
What about murder? How many points represent a life? Nothing less than a thousand points in my book.
Then again, maybe God should add another scale to track all the good things we do to bring our points down. It would be only fair just like our court system, where we pay our debt to society by reimbursing for damages or doing time according to the enormity of our crime. Maybe if we sing Christmas carols at the nursing home, we bring our total down 10 points. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and watch the number drop 20 points. Smile at someone for 2, maybe 3 if that person smiles back. Move to Africa and work for a volunteer relief organization for a whopping
90 points per year.
It would be cool if we could simply do some kind of penance for our wrongdoings and hopefully bring those points down low enough to earn our way back into God's favor. How low do our points have to be to be good enough? Wow, if it has to be zero,
we should really get busy.
Of course, as convenient as a point system would be, maybe it doesn't work like that at all. Maybe we have to feel really, really sorry, then beg and plead for God's forgiveness, all the while hoping that he's in a really, really good mood when we ask.
Or, wouldn't it be nice if God just completely forgave us, once and for all, whether we asked him to or not? That would be great,
for me. I mean, I hope it doesn't work that way for Hitler, or my high school English teacher who gave me a D on my paper just because I was a week late after all, creativity takes time. Maybe some people should have to work a little harder at earning forgiveness,
but I like that system for me.
I wonder if God would ever be so loving, so kind, to offer us forgiveness with no strings attached, no points to redeem? Yep,
now that would be real good.
Use the following space to take notes as you view the video in which Lee Strobel interviews Dr. Henry Cloud, clinical psychologist and bestselling author of Boundaries, Changes That Heal, and Nine Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, and Father Frank Pavone, a prominent Roman Catholic priest, head of Priests for Life, and coauthor of Rachel, Weep No More: How Divine Mercy Heals the Effects of Abortion.
1 Which is more difficult: to unconditionally forgive or to humbly ask for forgiveness? Why is forgiveness sometimes so hard for people to extend or receive?
2 What is your reaction to the idea that God forgives what human beings find unforgivable? Why is this concept hard to grasp or accept?
3 Father Pavone believes that God's forgiveness is not automatic,
but rather it comes to those who repent and once true repentance is in place, there is no sin that God is unwilling to forgive.
Do you believe people need to ask God for forgiveness in order to be forgiven or are they forgiven whether they ask for it or not?
Explain your response.
'The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.' British pastor John Stott
'Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean.'
Nobel Prizewinning statesman Dag Hammarskjold
4 Why would God refuse to forgive someone with an unrepentant heart? How is this similar or dissimilar to human forgiveness?
5 Both Father Pavone and Dr. Cloud believe that if Adolf Hitler were to have confessed his sins and asked God for forgiveness for the Holocaust, God would have wiped his slate clean. What is your reaction to that claim? Is God's mercy too great? Why or why not?