It is always tempting to dish out more law as we evaluate the confession we hold in our hands, in hopes that the weight of what’s been done will have a “lasting affect” on the transgressor. The truth is that we don’t want to be taken advantage of again, so to protect ourselves, we pull away that they might reach what we feel is the end of themselves. We do this to justify giving grace- “Hey, if I’m going to die this death for you- it had better be worth it for me.” Essentially we are asking them to prove their worthiness in exchange for our death. Yet grace is dying for those who are absolutely unworthy. Grace is loving those who have proven themselves to be unlovable.
You look down at this violent, putrid thing- this confession- that your loved one has placed into your hands. While your mind spins and your heart races, you suddenly feel a sharp pain stab your very soul. You realize what you hold in your hands doubles as a betrayal. As questions begin to pop into your mind, you feel anger and confusion- but mostly a deep sadness. “I thought I knew you…”
Your eyes shift back to the person in front of you, this person whom you love, who has now revealed themselves to be a deceiver. Those kisses on your cheeks from before burn hot as if they were from Judas himself. Numbness sweeps over you. You aren’t sure how to feel or how to react to this news. As you listen to the words sweeping through their lips, the tears streaking down both of your faces, the Spirit begins to move.
While agonizing pain pulses through your heart, softening also begins. As you examine the eyes of the person in front of you, you notice they’ve been stripped bare, with nothing else to offer- not even so much as an excuse for their actions. They no longer have a guard, and like a controlled demolition, the walls have all come crumbling down. You realize the pain on their face is actually in response to the pain on yours. They hate how much this betrayal has hurt you- and they are aware that they have given you every reason to walk away.
What you are now beholding is weakness. It is right here, at the point of complete vulnerability of a human being, that something about them becomes strikingly beautiful. You want to cover their shame and you are moved with a strong desire to protect them at all costs.
You look down at this confession, now bleeding through your fingers, and you realize you are in the role of both judge and executioner. There is a death sentence hanging in the air.
You are overpowered with love for this person who is a weak sinner, just like you. You take that confession- this debt against you- and you swallow it completely, moved by the Spirit who guides your hands. You have essentially stepped into their place and have sacrificed your own life. As much as what they’ve done has brought you pain, you can’t stand the thought of life apart from them- and so you die. You watch as this decision absolutely unravels your loved one. You reach out to catch this broken soul, as they fall to the ground, and as you embrace – grace sweeps in and holds you both.
You have both been set free.
We think that by granting the undeserving sinner grace, we just let them off easy to go out and betray us again. Make no mistake, forgiveness is incredibly costly and the undeserving party is completely aware of what it costs and to whom it will cost. They know that there is no way that they can pay back this debt that you have willingly, selflessly chosen to take on- and that thought is devastating to them.
By granting forgiveness to the undeserving, we give them a real life glimpse into the radical implications of the gospel. What happens then is something beautiful- we have taken what that person knew in their mind to be true about Jesus’ sacrifice for them- what they couldn’t possibly believe while hiding in the darkness- and we make it come alive before their eyes, solidifying it in their hearts.
In doing so, we increase their faith far beyond what previous theological knowledge afforded them. It is life changing for both the forgiven and the forgiver. Confession and forgiveness drives you to the reality of the cross. It draws you both to the only Love that will never let either of you go.