I was praying yesterday and, as usual, asked for forgiveness for sins I have committed. I like to first ask to be forgiven my sins, then I raise up those I love to be forgiven for what they do, especially Alex and Bryce, my children who have rejected me and don’t even know the Lord. I do it in this order because in the Torah the Cohen HaGadol (Head Priest) had to be cleansed first before he could act as intercessor for the people, so I ask to be cleansed before I intercede for those I pray for.
That’s when it hit me…I had done something that morning that is, by technical standards, a sinful act. It is not terrible; it’s one of those “minor” sins (if you will be kind enough to accept that term, even though we all know any sin is a sin) that I find myself doing on occasion because, well, I like it. As I was going to ask for forgiveness, the realization that I intend to do this again made me feel that I was wrong to ask God to forgive me. To ask forgiveness for something that I do not want to stop doing, something for which I have not done T’Shuvah, seems wrong to me. It is like throwing the fleece before God. I mean, really…forgive me for this but I am going to do it again, so forgive me then, too. Is that right? Is it fair to ask God to forgive me for purposefully rejecting His instructions, especially when I fully intend to do it again?
I decided I was wrong on two counts- wrong for doing something that is not Godly and correct in His eyes, and even more wrong for asking Him to forgive me when I don’t intend to stop doing it.
I know, I know… now you all think I am less than what you hoped for. I have sinned, I sin and I will continue to sin (I sound like Caesar saying, “Veni, vidi, vici”) and that is why I think it is wrong of me to ask God to forgive me for this thing. I’m not perfect. I am getting better, but still, I am not perfect. I’m not bragging about it, and I am not beating myself up over it. I would like to be able to overcome this one little thing, but I haven’t, and that’s probably because I don’t want to stop.
After I felt that I shouldn’t ask forgiveness, I asked God to show me a sign (I was on a roll for doing wrong, wasn’t I?) The sign I asked for was to demonstrate His forgiveness by taking away all desire to do the thing I won’t ask forgiveness for. In other words, I feel unjustified to ask forgiveness for doing something I know I will purposefully do again, so I asked Him to show His forgiveness by taking away the desire to do this. Don’t just forgive me, but change me so I won’t need to ask forgiveness for this again. Rewire my brain to no longer be satisfied by this act, to no longer feel the need for the “worldly” satisfaction derived from this act.
Here’s the difference: I will ask for forgiveness for doing things I shouldn’t do and that I don’t want to do; for instance, using bad language, having mean thoughts, for being the sarcastic, cynical and attitudinal New Yorker I am at heart. I won’t ask forgiveness for doing the things I shouldn’t do that I still want to do. Why? Because if I still want to do them I haven’t turned, I haven’t given them up, I haven’t chosen God’s way over my way. I don’t feel right in asking for forgiveness for doing something which I choose to not stop doing. It’s not fair to God, and I feel like it is stomping the blood of Messiah into the dirt. He suffered and died so that I can be forgiven, and if I ask for His blood covering for something that I choose to keep on doing, well, to me that would be more of a sin than the thing I actually am doing.
What do you think? If we choose, willingly and willfully, to perform an act which we know is sinful, whether it be eating ham, cursing out the neighbor, or as terrible as having an affair, and we know we will continue to do that, are we justified in asking for forgiveness? More than that, if we choose to continue to do it, will we be forgiven if we ask for it? Will God forgive something that we are NOT sincerely sorry about?
Yeshua said that if your brother asks to be forgiven, you should forgive him, not 7 times but 70 times 7 times. However, I have always thought the underlying assumption is that the brother asking for forgiveness is sorry for the sin he committed. If he isn’t sorry, if he isn’t truly doing T’Shuvah, then should/will he be forgiven?
There’s the parable that follows this about the servant who was forgiven a debt and refused to forgive the debt owed to him. For his unforgiveness his own debt was recalled against him. My interpretation of this parable is that the servant was sinfully selfish, in that (1) he borrowed a large sum he couldn’t pay back and (2) did not forgive a small debt that was owed to him. He did not do T’Shuvah from his sin, as demonstrated by his actions. And, not being repentant, his sin was laid back upon him. He wasn’t forgiven because he didn’t want to repent of his sin.
I will not ask forgiveness for things that I know I shouldn’t be doing but choose to continue to do, whatever they are. I will, however, ask God to help me do T’Shuvah, to give faith to my faithlessness, to strengthen me through the Ruach to not just overcome sin, but to hate it to the point where sinning is painful to me. Any sin. And if I ever reach that point, then and only then can I justly ask for forgiveness for a sin I keep committing.
I like to say that before I was saved I was a sinner who rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. To all of you, and before God, here and now I confess: there are some sins I still choose to do.
The bottom line is we will be forgiven anything, over and over, when we are truly repentant, when we come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, and when we choose to stop doing what it is we are doing. When I reach the point that Shaul reached, confessing he was a wretch because he did the things he didn’t want to do, and did not do the things he wanted to do, then and only then will I be able to ask forgiveness for anything and everything I do wrong.
I have a rather long and arduous journey ahead of me. What about you?