How would you respond when you made a mistake; if instead of criticism and perhaps a tongue-lashing, you were told something positive about yourself?
It’s nearly impossible to imagine that happening, isn’t it? Our human nature tends to default to expressing the negative, finding fault, and degrading the guilty.
However, there are exceptions. The Babemba tribe in southern Africa knows something of the power of forgiveness to restore a tribal member from the error of his ways. When one of them violates the tribal code of conduct, they are placed unfettered in the center of the village. Life in the village comes to a halt as everyone— adults and children alike—gather in a circle around the accused.
They do not pick up stones to cast at the offending tribal member. They do not speak a negative word against the guilty party; they do just the opposite! One by one, they take their turn sharing something good they can remember about the person. This is done loudly so everyone can hear. They recite the individual’s good qualities, good deeds, strengths, and all the kindnesses the culprit has ever done in their lifetime.
This can go on for days, but no one is allowed to exaggerate, fabricate, or mock. At the end of the well-saying, the circle breaks up and everyone participates in a joyful celebration, welcoming the newly affirmed member back into the tribe!
Anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior is rare among them. Why? They are masters at restoring the guilty one from the trespass that ensnared them. Our lives and relationships would be much healthier if we followed the example of the Babemba tribe.
What makes this form of restoration so effective? In order to better understand, let’s examine how God forgives.
Our heavenly Father is the originator of forgiveness, the ultimate master of restoration.
His example should become the primary basis for how we live.
God is motivated to forgive.
Scripture tells us that God “is” love (1 John 4:7-8). Thus, everything He does must be a result of His loving nature. The forgiving provision for our error was already in His loving essence.
We can assume that God knew His offspring would err, for He knows all things. So if His intentions were to be realized, He had to have a remedy in mind. A forgiver from the start, His loving essence was prepared!
God sent Jesus Christ into the world to reveal His loving forgiveness. He demonstrated in the life and death of His unique son Jesus, that His forgiveness is sufficient for each of us.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life ( John 3:16).
No one can earn, win, or purchase God’s forgiveness; it is His loving gift to His wayward offspring! As the embodiment of love, He can’t help Himself. What a Father!
Are there limitations to God’s forgiveness?
You may wonder if it is really possible for God, who knows everything, to completely forgive and forget. This seems like a real paradox; however, we can reasonably assume that God is able to do anything He wants because He is supreme. If God chooses not to keep an account of our errors, in essence, what He has forgiven is no longer relevant—as forgotten.
God prefers to restore through forgiveness than to rectify through punishment.
The loving kindness that is resident in His gift of forgiveness is powerful. He must have shared this insight with the Babemba tribe.
God’s love for us is so full that He forgives us without reserve. His remedy for our error is to forgivingly restore, to clean us up! Scripture clearly tells us that His correcting disciplines are always meant to help us:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
While God’s forgiveness is freely given, we only receive the full benefits of His love by repenting and turning toward changing our ways. We are to give our self to being restored!
What is the real purpose of forgiveness?
God’s forgiveness restores us so we can be better children. He harbors no desire to condemn anyone; and does not want to leave any of us separated from His loving care. He is always after what is best for us.
God loves every one of His offspring, even though we go astray. His eternal view allows Him to see beyond our separating activity. He sees our shortcomings, and yet, as a great Father, He is patiently diligent. He has no desire to leave any of us in our mess. God continuously calls us, to restore us into the fellowship and His forgiving love.
There are no restrictions or limitations to God’s forgiveness, nor is His forgiveness passive. The Message Bible records God’s grace in Romans 5:20 as “aggressive forgiveness.”
God comes to us today as an abiding presence, to soften our heart toward Him. He wants us to change our ways and receive the full restoration of His forgiveness. Will you allow Him?
Resources to help
We share resources about this way of living here at RelationalGospel.com. Specifically, I elaborate more on relational life with God and with others in the book The Christ Culture, where I’ve compiled countless Scriptural insights about walking in the Ways of God from my personal life-changing journey. Many folks are finding it an excellent resource for group discussions and we provide a Leader’s Guide to facilitate this.
You can find The Christ Culture; A Way of Life Like No Other shared here on our site, in print and eBook versions. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful and supportive of your growth in the Ways of God.
Relational Gospel – making sense of Scripture and this gift called life.