Friday, November 21, 2008


A speaker once remarked, "We are never closer to imitating God then when we forgive someone."

That is a profound statement, but I have had people challenge it. "After all, God is love," they say, "and so it is when we love others that we are most like our Creator."

Well,yes. Overall, grandly, love is or should be the defining characteristic of the Christian. Jesus said it is the key identifying sign that we are His disciples. All other virtues flow from that. So yes, let us agree that "the greatest of these is love."

Having established that, I am forced to ask the question, "what's easier to say: 'I love you' or 'I forgive you'?" I'm reminded of the time Jesus saw the paralyzed man in Matthew 9. He said to him, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven." I can imagine the paralyzed man thinking, "uhhh..thank you for the sentiment." The religious leaders had a different reaction: "Blasphemy!" Their logic was sound: only God can forgive sins, so for Jesus to claim to forgive sins, He must be claiming to be God!

Jesus then asked, "What's easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'rise up and walk'?" Technically speaking, neither is easy, because a mere mortal can not do either one. But has far as just saying it, obviously, "your sins are forgiven you" is much easier to say, because no one can see that happening. Unless we can devise a way to peer into the spiritual heart of a human being, we just don't know.

But in order to demonstrate His authority, Jesus then went on to heal the paralyzed man! Again, using simple reasoning, if Jesus could do something that was obvious and observable (healing), then he must also possess the power to do the hidden work of the heart (forgiving sins).

"Okay, Teacher Tim, I know this story and the theological implications therein. What's your point?" I'm glad you asked.

I contend that it is far easier to say, "I love you" than to say "I forgive you." When I say I love someone, nobody can really see it. Besides, I can qualify my statement in such a way as it gets me "off the hook." For example, I can say, "I love her, but I don't really like her." Or that great Christian pious cop out: "I love you in the Lord" (translation: "there is no way I'll spend Thanksgiving with you because I think you're despicable, but (deep breath) I love you in the Lord."). It's just so easy to let the words roll off our tongue.

But "I forgive you"---that's a different story. You see, when you say you forgive someone, everyone is watching you. And if you slip up and bring up the past offense, or display indignation about the trespass, or (perish the thought) continue to hold a grudge, the witnesses to your "forgiveness" will shake their heads and say, "I knew he didn't/couldn't/wouldn't forgive." Never mind that we are all fallible human beings with weaknesses and faults. Never mind that even the most godly of Christians stumble at times. As far as the eyewitnesses are concerned, unforgiveness is just another sign of hypocrisy. That's why forgiveness is so hard.

But if we can forgive as Christ forgave us, if we can demonstrate the God-kind of forgiveness (the obvious work), then it bolsters our claim to love (the hidden work). It becomes a manifestation of love.

Easy? No. Needed? Yes. Impossible without God? Absolutely.


  1. I disagree. Love is not hidden if you mean it. It will shine like the sun. I also disagree with some of the other things but do not care to discuss it through comments on your blog.

  2. Thank you for leaving your comments. I agree that love is not hidden if you mean it...that's the point. The question is in how love shines. God loved me so much, He forgave me through Jesus' work on the cross. That's the degree of love I am to show to others.

  3. Then why did you say love was a hidden emotion?

  4. I never said that love was a hidden emotion, only that the mere profession of love is easier than the profession of forgiveness, because onlookers can more readily see if we're still carrying a grudge.