Let’s take a break from Acts to extend the previous lesson. There’s a wonderful dialogue in “Goodwill Hunting” between the psychiatrist and Will:
“It’s not your fault.” “I know.”
“It’s not your fault.” “I know!”
“It’s not your fault.” “Don’t mess with me, man!”
“It’s not your fault.” Will breaks down crying. Breakthrough, at last. Real progress is about to begin. There’s a lesson like that for Christians – one that we “know” but don’t really “get.”
You are forgiven. God is not in denial. He didn’t miss anything. He didn’t forget.
You are forgiven. God’s forgiveness is straight, in your face forgiveness. Consider this:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” – Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV)
People often interpret this passage as saying that life’s not fair. That is exactly, precisely wrong. Grace is fair; it would be unfair only if someone got less than they deserved. No one’s getting shortchanged here.
We teach how to understand our trials, but give short shrift to understanding our blessings. Do you really think it’s OK that you’re forgiven? Sure, we deserve Hell. Our sense of fairness argues against grace. Christians are like the workers hired at the eleventh hour, and we struggle with that. We’re right to be surprised by His forgiveness because we are undeserving, but we’re wrong if we can’t accept His grace.
This hits different people different ways. Most of us find God’s forgiveness a bit of a head scratcher. But for some, forgiveness just ain’t right. They can’t forgive themselves, and they won’t let others forgive them either. To guarantee that the “right” thing happens, they may even repeat the behavior. Don’t be scared off by this. The gospel, properly taught, can light these folks up like a super nova.
It’s all about grace. It’s good to study doctrine but remember, it’s all rooted in God’s plan for forgiveness.
People who can’t forgive themselves are a small percentage, but that’s still a lot of people. You surely know some. They need to learn about the real gospel. Pray for these folks. Ask the Lord to direct them to the truth. If you recognize this in someone you know, pray specifically for them.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: