What does forgive mean?

The other day Sam, my 3 yr. old son, did something that ended with him in time out. I don't even remember what he did, and it doesn't really matter at this point. Regarding the behavior of our children, we try to positively reinforce good behavior and deter bad behavior by limiting the options for it. Of course, most of you probably know that children can be quite creative, and you can not limit every negative experience. Nor should we. How else can you learn to walk without falling down a few times. When we punish bad behavior we try to make sure the consequences are clear beforehand and that the punishment fits the crime. We also try to make sure that they know what behaviors, attitudes, or actions they are being punished for, why these things are not good, and what a better choice might have been. After the punishment we are sure to affirm our love for them and our dissatisfaction with the offense. We want to make a clear distinction between being bad and doing something bad. God created us good. We are created in the image of God. Though we are an imperfect reflection, our essence is that of the Creator. I want my children to know this about themselves. It is through God's action of forgiveness that we become perfected. I want my children to know this too, and so we are careful to use the language of forgiveness. Not just, "It's OK." but really, "I forgive you."

This is the basis our philosophy and theology of parenting, and it is all based on scripture. Most fundamentally I would say that it comes from 1 John 4:10-11.

10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.Treva and I are far from perfect, and we do not hold true to these ideals every time. But we at least have a goal to strive toward. So, back to Sam in time out the other day. After we talked he said he was sorry, and I gave the standard line, "If you are sorry, you wont do it again. I love you, and I forgive you." We hugged, and the sweet, blessed child said, "Daddy, what does forgive mean?" I though for a second and said, "It means I love you no matter what." He responded, "No Daddy, it means you never give up!"

Well, glory be. I was stunned. "That's right, Sam. It means I'll never give up on you." Isn't that just the sum of the gospel of Jesus Christ? No wonder I have no idea what he did. I don't care what he did! What matters is that he got it, and he got it in a way I could never have given it to him. As far as the East is from the West, so far does Christ remove our transgressions from us.

Do we get that? This God who created and sustains all there is loves us enough to be vulnerable to our choices, loves us enough to allow us to suffer the consequences of our choices and those of others, loves us enough to keep separating the sin from the sinner even though we keep sinning. And when we get it, when we realize that this God will never give up on us, the God of all creation is overjoyed! This is not because of anything wonderful about us. It is because God's will and intention has been made complete. The knowledge of our forgiveness and the peace it brings is the completion of the meditation of God!

God will never give up on you. This is by no means a free pass, as though forgiveness equals permission. In fact it is quite the opposite. If our understanding of God's tenacity on our behalf is real, we cannot help but respond to the embrace we are offered by becoming the outstretched hand of God to someone else. Open your arms for love has come! God will never give up on you. So, in the words of Greg Allman:
Just step yourself outside and look up at the stars above,
go on downtown baby, find somebody to love.
Meanwhile I ain't wastin' time no more,
cause time goes by like pouring rain and much faster things.
May the Peace of Christ Be With You!
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