Robbing Peter to pay…Peter?

I’ve never been sure where the idea of self-forgiveness came from. However, what I do know is that in
almost every deliverance session we bump into it. As we lead the client through issues of unforgiveness
the client will invariably say something like “I forgive Dad because he was always at work. I forgive Mom
because she was so into herself that she didn’t protect me from being molested by my older brother.
She also didn’t believe me when I told her about it. And, oh, yeah, I also need to forgive myself.”

How can I forgive myself? Matthew 18:23-25 defines forgiveness the cancellation of a debt. When
someone hurt us, that person owes us and we demand justice. The problem arises when God wants to
apply the same standard that we apply to others to apply to us. To experience God’s forgiveness we
also have to forgive.

The concept of self-forgiveness can’t be found anywhere in the Bible. Nowhere do you find Peter,
after having betrayed Christ, saying, “Gosh I am really wrestling with forgiving myself over betraying
Jesus.” Paul is not recorded anywhere as saying, “’I’ve got to learn to forgive myself if I am going to find
any peace about my having killed and imprisoned my Christian brothers and sisters.” The idea simply
isn’t there. Isn’t self-forgiveness a little like taking money out of one of my pockets and putting it into
another of my pockets and then declaring that I owe myself a debt (when both pockets belong to me)?
How can I pay a debt to myself? I can’t.

Lots of time people try to do the self-forgiveness thing because they don’t know how to handle the guilt
that comes from making bad decisions or of doing something stupid. They feel an obligation to beat
themselves up. As one who has done lots of stupid stuff I know how much I hate to admit that I did
something that I was, in perfect 20/20 hindsight, both stupid and often sinful. The good news is that the
issue of my guilt and shame has already been addressed on the cross. All I need to do is to admit that
I have sinned against God (or against people), sincerely ask him and those whom I have hurt to forgive
me, accept the forgiveness for which Jesus died, and see my guilt and shame nailed to the cross and
covered by our Savior’s precious blood. It’s called grace. Who among us doesn’t need grace?

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