A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“’Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do (p.116)?” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I once heard a pastor say that if he preached every sermon on forgiveness, he still would address the subject enough. Well, if he preached with this kind of punch, he also might not have a job. It’s not that I disagree with C.S. Lewis (or have the audacity to disagree with Jesus), but it just hurts to have this truth articulated in such a straight-forward manner.
The force of Jesus’ words reminds of us a central truth to our Christian walk – when we were forgiven we were purchased and therefore no longer belong to Satan or even ourselves (I Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus does not speak as a contractor making a recommendation about repairs to the owner of the house (our lives). Jesus speaks as the Builder and Twice-Owner (by creation and redemption) of the house (our lives).
We are like the renter who has been in a house for so long that we naturally call it our own and increasingly treat as our own, even though we know we pay the “rent” and not the “mortgage.” We are so comfortable in “our life” that when the Owner speaks we get offended and try to find a way to escort Him off His property.
In effect, the command to forgive is God saying, “I let you live morally rent free (paid daily by the blood of Christ), so I expect you not to charge anyone else moral rent. If you must, charge their moral rent to the same account that pays your own.” In that sense, it is actually a very, very kind command.
Think about it. What if someone offered to pay for your housing and their requirement of you was that if someone else ever owed you money to tell them to pay that debt too? Would you take the deal? The only reason that you would hesitate is to verify that it was a legitimate offer.
So when we are offended by the command to forgive others, it is us who have to answer the hard questions, not God. We have to explain how we feel justified in accepting free moral rent while trying to retain the “right” to charge others moral rent. Our indignation is actually our shame.
But that shame is covered with the same offer as our prior debt if we will humble ourselves and receive it. God is not a Landlord who delights in evicting his tenants (don’t stretch the metaphor to encompass the assurance of salvation). But rather God will forgive the debts of unforgiven-debts if we will surrender our perceived right to collect them.
The question becomes, “Who do we think we are?” If we are the same person who prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” then we are welcome to live in God’s provision all our life (temporal and eternal). However, if we believe we have become a different caliber of person, then we will live with all the moral, emotional, and relational “luxury” that our merit can provide. That is the equivalent of being homeless.