Forgiveness and the Cross

In life, we will all do things that we will come to regret. Every one of us will violate the moral code. Even the man who does not believe in an objective moral code will find his actions inconsistent at some point, and regret the different action. We make mistakes because we are fallible.

With each mistake we make, we are given a choice.

The regret is almost inevitable once we have realized our mistake. We immediately think “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that.” This moment of clarity is appropriate to the action, in that it is a way for us to recognize our faults, and even attempt to learn from them. If presented with a similar situation in the future, we can think “I regretted my actions last time, so let me act differently now.”

There is an inappropriate response to our mistakes, however, and that is endless guilt. Our tendency is to refuse to let go of our guilt, and to simply hang on to our mistakes. We continue to feel bad, precisely because we recognize the gravity of our sin. The more we hold on to this guilt, the worse we feel.

To never let go of guilt is to forget what Christ did on the cross.

When Christ took our sin upon the cross, he took our full punishment. This does not mean that we do not have to face consequences for our sins (for every action done on earth will have some sort of earthly reaction), but it does mean that Christ has truly set us free, and we need not harbour our guilt.

We should be filled with Christ and not guilt over our sins.

As we are filled with Christ, there is an appropriate place for reflecting on what we did to put Christ on the cross. But we mustn’t forget the resurrection, for without that, we have nothing. If Jesus did not raise from the dead, then his death was meaningless for our sins and guilt. But Jesus did rise, and he did take away our sins and our guilt.

It is easy to live in light of the cross, but difficult to remember the resurrection. It can be easy to forgive others, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to forgive ourselves. A friend may harm me, but I am capable of seeing his good qualities as well as his bad, and forgiveness comes swiftly. When I drive the nail into the cross, I feel every bit of that sin, deeply embedded in myself. It is easy to get caught up in the cross, bloody and stained as it is, and to forget the resurrection. Jesus died, but then he rose, offering us forgiveness, even for the cross.

When you sin, take a moment to regret what you did. Realize the mistake you made. Repent. And then, let Christ take away your failure. Completely.

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Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).