Here's a site called WikiHow, which publishes a wild array of "how-to" articles. Some of the topics include:
How to appreciate death metal, mosh in a mosh pit, care for a library book, start a jazz collection, survive a freestyle rap battle, convert bicycle tires into studded snow tires, save money on gas, get out of a cellular service contract, open rigid plastic clamshells safely
So, before reading it all though, here's the article I would write, were that the title I was assigned. Ahem.
There are two steps to forgiving yourself.
- Make yourself God, so that your moral offenses are committed primarily against yourself rather than against God
- Since you can't do #1, bail out on the whole project and come up with a more Biblely analysis of the situation.The end.
- That was the [article]?However, the actual WikiHow article shows no concern with being Biblical, so it's a lot longer. It traverses the usual therapeutic route, viewing guilt as a negative feeling, a psychological rather than a moral/spiritual issue, and assuming that the sooner we're rid of it, the better. Period. Then a little video from some mind-science guru serves to poison-cherry the pie. The worldview assumed is relativistic and Godless (— did I just say the same thing, twice?), with me and my feelings at the center (— thrice?).
- It was dumb!
- It was obvious!
- It was pointless!
- It was... short.
- I loved it!
- I loved it!
Puzzlingly, one of the contributors to this article bears the screenname 1sweetchristian, whose self-introduction says "Hi my name is Sarah. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am learning how to trust Him with all my heart and be obedient to His will." That is a wonderful goal, and may God bless her; however, I don't see any impact from that perspective on the article.
Sin is a word for which we should keep as strictly-defined a definition as possible, straying only under duress. The apostolic definition is lawlessness (1 John 3:4; cf. Romans 5:13). The definition from Piper's Baptist catechism also works: "Sin is transgression of the revealed will of God which teaches that we are to act in perfect holiness from a heart of faith to the glory of God."
The Bible is really serious about this. How serious? Well, think of someone who really, really sinned badly against people — sexually used one, had another killed, betrayed the trust of scores and hundreds. Of course, you know I am thinking of King David. And you know right where I'm going, to his head-scratching confession in Psalm 51:4 — "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." On the face of it, this is simply an absurd statement. "You only"? What of Bathsheba? What of his own wife/wives? What of Uriah?
the big lie: sin is only sin because God defines it as sin. Sin is sin because God says it is sin. Spouse betraying spouse, children failing to honor parents, neighbor slandering or robbing neighbor — all these are sins because God says they are sins.
Apart from God, there would be no sin. All sin is, in the final analysis, against God; for without God there would be no sin. And so, as I have heard D. A. Carson say well more than once, in all sin, God is the primary offended party.
Back to the notion of forgiving yourself. It simply is faddish, man-exalting nonsense to speak of forgiving yourself. In your sin, you aren't the wronged party. If you (or I) really think that it is meaningful to speak of forgiving ourselves for our sins, then I don't think we've got that whole repentance thing straight. It isn't our own forgiveness which we need. It is, of course, God's forgiveness, a forgiveness that cost the Son of God His lifeblood (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:13-14, 22; 10:4).
It is only meaningful to speak of forgiveness of ourselves, then (A) by God, (B) of sin (C) against God, extended to us only (D) because of the shed blood of Christ, through whom alone we can find forgiveness. Secondarily, it is meaningful to speak of horizontal forgiveness of people upon repentance (that is not the focus of this post; but I can recommend a great book on the subject). But we know that God does command us to repent of our wrongs against others, to pursue restitution for those wrongs. We do those things because God calls us to do them. He defines my sin against my brother, He calls me to repent and pursue restitution and reconciliation (and commands me to forgive those who repent of sins against me). It's still all about God, and it's a subject of direct Biblical teaching.
Forgiving myself, however? Never. Biblically meaningless at best.
"Ah," a deeper scholar might say, "but what of 1 Corinthians 6:18?"
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
Worse, the usual application is made to sins that really are clearly sins against God, and/or sins against others. The man who has committed adultery says, "God has forgiven me, but I just can't forgive myself." The woman who has failed her husband or her children in some way says "God has forgiven me, but I just can't forgive myself." And on it goes.
So where does this whole idea come from? I think a lot of it comes from psychologized, man-centered nonsense.
But I also think some of it doesn't, at least not as directly. I think some of it comes from Christians who have sinned, who know they've sinned, and who nonetheless continue in guilt and misery. What shall we tell them, then?
My, such a long post already.
Better finish up Thursday, Lord willing.