When I do or say something that harms my wife, my family, neighbors, or colleagues, I don’t hurt just that individual; I also hurt God.
Think about when you’ve offended someone. If my words or actions hurt them, I lose all negotiating power to make them forgive me. The power of forgiveness rests with that person. If a person says they need six months to get over what I’ve done, I have no right to negotiate and say, “Make it four.”
This same concept applies with God. When we sin against God, we lose all right to define the terms of reconciliation. We cannot say to God – “If you forgive me, then I’ll give a 10% tithe of my income for the next two years, or I’ll go to church every Sunday.” We have no right to decide what action will satisfy God. It’s pretty sobering when we think about all our past sins.
But here’s the incredible news: God, in His love and mercy, determined that Jesus’ death on the cross would be sufficient. This means that when we repent and ask God to forgive us of our sins, we can trust that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for all of our sins – it’s enough. God set the standard for forgiveness as the cross, paying the debt for our sins and the sins of every person who’s ever wronged us.
So what does God require of us when we sin? It’s not satisfying a list of good deeds, but a complete surrender of our lives to the Lord. It’s accepting and embracing God’s forgiveness and, in turn, forgiving one another.