If confession is hard, forgiveness is harder – but as we put on Christ to the full, each takes residence in our being as the norm of how we relate to God as expressed in our actions with each other.
And on this point we must be clear – it is far too easy to say, “if you are a Christian, then you confess and forgive.” Any statement that includes “if” and “then” is a conditional. Think of the many ways we use conditionals in our conversations. Conditionals are bargaining tools, they are leverage points to keep an advantage. Conditionals are not self-giving. They are not expressive of the agape’ love we know in God through Jesus of Nazareth.
To forgive, as hard as it is to accept, cannot be based upon conditionals. It just is.
“How many times do I forgive,” Peter asks Jesus. “Seven times?” – as if that ought to be plenty. “No, seventy times seven,” or, until you can no longer keep count.
See, there’s much at work in an act of forgiveness, and most of it reflects on the one being asked to forgive. Imagine you’ve been wronged – the power to forgive resides completely with you. You have to decide whether or not you’ll accept someone’s request for forgiveness. You have to decide if there are terms in order for forgiveness to be granted (here come the conditionals again). And you have to decide if you like the power you have over someone who is asking to be forgiven is greater than being grace-full.
If left to our own devices, sure enough, time and again we’ll dictate terms for forgiveness – and when we do, grace has nothing to do with it. That’s why putting on Christ matters so much – forgiveness is not based upon conditions – it just is.