I Just Can't Forgive Myself
“Maybe God will forgive me for what I did, but I can’t seem to forgive myself.”
We’ve all heard that lament and probably voiced it after some serious failure. But here’s good news: We are not the judge of all the earth, so we have no right to condemn ourselves — or to forgive ourselves. That’s God’s role. And He joyfully accepts all who come to Him through Jesus: “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one — for God himself has given us right standing with himself” (Rom. 8:33). So “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1).
No condemnation in Christ! We all know it’s wrong to condemn other people. But did you know it’s just as wrong to condemn yourself, when the Judge of heaven has accepted your confession?
Yet I certainly felt like condemning myself as a teenager, struggling to understand God’s grace. The speaker at a youth rally gave a talk entitled “Slightly Soiled, Greatly Reduced in Value.” His point was that just as department store clothing is less valuable when soiled — even just a bit — so with teenagers. Behave yourself or lose value with God!
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I used to wear contact lenses and had to be careful when taking them out of my eyes. Those nearly invisible slivers of plastic could be hard to find when dropped. But late one night a lens bounced off the sink and (oh no!) into the cat litter box. So what did I do? Condemn it as filthy and buy another one?
No, I searched through that litter box until I found my little lost treasure — dirty, yes, but just as precious as the other lens.
Lovability Is Not a Human Quality
Though soiled by sin, we are not only precious but lovable. Lovability is a quality in God’s eyes, not a quality of human character or personality. We may infer this from both John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” and “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”
Lovable by the world’s standard means you are cute, smart, rich, slim, powerful or popular. Hollywood has even quantified this. Do you know what your “Q Score” is?
The Q Score “is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, celebrity, company, or entertainment product.”[i] There’s TV Q, Sports Q — even Dead Q! “Dead Q measures the current popularity of deceased celebrities.”[ii]
Obviously the world’s concept of lovability cannot bless everybody it celebrates.
God, by contrast, lavishes His love upon everyone — cute or otherwise. We cannot make ourselves more lovable than we already are to Him, since lovability is a quality of God’s character of love, not ours.
This gets quite personal with God. Not only does He love the mass of this world’s unlovely humanity, but He loves little old me and you. How do we know? On the cross, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20, NIV).
God has a big stake in us, personally — the life of His own Son! Out of that sacrifice, we receive eternal life. But what does God get? He gets us!
The apostle Paul prayed that God’s people would understand “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18, emphasis added). Salvation is more than God feeling sorry for sinners, as you might feel pity for a scraggly kitten in the rain, so you bring it in for warm milk. No, God delights in us for His own sake! We really are that special to Him.
A National Champion Daddy
Travis, my dentist in Nebraska, was a linebacker on the 1997 national champion college football team, the Nebraska Huskers. Darlene babysat his little baby, Emmy, until she graduated into toddler care.
Travis and his wife delighted in their little girl. Every Tuesday afternoon he shut down his office, sent his staff home and took little Emmy on a field trip. Just the two of them. He always reported the next morning what they did. “We went to the museum yesterday!”
Baby Emmy couldn’t walk, so her dad carried her on their adventures. When she dirtied her diaper, he didn’t scold her. He just got her cleaned up, and they moved on. This little baby with her soiled diapers was immeasurably more valuable to him than his national champion ring.
Emmy had no idea that her dad became famous in town or anything about a Q Score. But as she grew older, she began to grasp how incredibly precious she is.
How about you?