By Cindy Koch –
It’s a hard mouthful to forgive someone their sins. They are some of the most awkward words to come out of your mouth. Firstly, you are bold enough to actually say “I forgive you,” which is not one of our top ten automatic responses in uncomfortable situations. Secondly, by pronouncing forgiveness, you are admitting that this person before you has sinned. In our passive aggressive culture, looking someone in the eye and calling sin a sin is a feat of bravery. Thirdly, this person probably didn’t even sin against you, so you are speaking the powerful words of God in His stead concerning His eternal judgement. You might wonder, who are you to proclaim these life-giving, sin-loosing words?
As hard as all of that is, throw in one more level of difficulty: You happen to be a girl speaking a word of forgiveness. Now, it’s not strange when you forgive your children. They grow up hearing mom’s amazing words of forgiveness and love. It’s also not as awkward when a sister in Christ confesses her sin and needs those words, “I forgive you in the name of Jesus Christ.” However, it is pretty humorous when a girl attempts to forgive the sins of a man who stands in front of her.
Yes, yes, I know that’s so sexist. Women can do everything men can. Females can forgive sins just as effectively as a male, so they say. There are entire church bodies that tell us that this is the responsible “priesthood of all believers” thing to do. Most people today don’t even bat an eye at a woman in a clerical dress—that is, until she looks into the eyes of a man that needs to believe he is forgiven.
Imagine that you run into the emergency room clutching your very own child who is not breathing. You are frantic, exposed, scared, and looking for someone who can help. The other wide-eyed patients sitting in the waiting room blur in the background. The patient receptionist only enflames your impatience. Suddenly, you catch sight of the doctor, the one who has the power to save your child. You focus on him. You listen to him. You give over that precious life, so that he can revive her.
Do you believe that this forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Let it be done for you as you believe.
In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sitting in that very same waiting room, two patients had also been previously trained in CPR. Also, that annoyingly calm receptionist could have helped your child breathe again. But in your raw terror, you fled to the one who you were certain could bring back life. The doctor was the only one you trusted to hear.
Now, the Word of God certainly has the power to act no matter who is speaking it. So yes, a woman could stand up and forgive my sin. A child could stand up and forgive my sin. The devil himself could stand up and forgive my sin. The power and efficacy of the Word is not dependent on the vessel that God chooses to use. But even though a woman could possibly do this task of forgiveness, and one would certainly be forgiven with her words, the man who seeks restoration would have to trust it.
So, why would anyone jeopardize the clear proclamation of Christ’s complete forgiveness spoken out loud? A girl can’t forgive his sin if he won’t believe it. This is so much more than a statement of fairness and politically correct gender expectations. This is so much more important than justifying the position or worth of the one who speaks. This is life and death for the one who struggles to hear.
In my experience, I have seen the uncomfortable disbelief behind the eyes of a man before me. I have watched the smirk and chuckle of a brother in Christ as I speak a quiet word of forgiveness to him. And I get it. I also wrestle with this terrifying and wonderful external word, especially coming from a voice I don’t expect to hear as Christ’s.
But I also know that the kingdom of God is like a reckless farmer casting His seed all over the earth—all over paths, rocks, shallow ground, thorns, and good soil. Guys, I apologize. I do believe they all will hear it better from you, but sometimes the excellent kingdom of forgiveness can’t help but spill out of my redeemed lips. There is good soil hidden all around, where the word will unexpectedly grow and flourish in someone who understands it. And one day, even just one time, I might whisper Christ into your ears so that you might hear.