Have you ever forgiven someone -I mean really forgiven them? Depending on the nature and degree of the wound, it is not always easy. Sometimes there is no real need to talk about "forgiveness" because it is simply a matter of not being so self-obsessed and up-tight and to allow the other person to be human (to let love cover a multitude of sins). But other times things are deeper and more painful. More has been lost that will never be regained as it was in its original state. Not easy.
Yet our culture is quick to talk about the benefits of forgiveness. We often hear about how forgiveness is good for us, forgiveness frees us from years of bitter imprisonment in the wounds of our past, holding on angrily to what was done to it. And there is total truth in that. To refuse to forgive is to choose to swallow poison. That is a good reason to forgive, I suppose. But I don't really see God forgiving like that. I don't see that Jesus forgave like that. When he proclaimed someone's sins forgiven, he didn't walk away after saying, "Wow, I feel so much better. What a load off my mind." That is because he forgave for the benefit of the other person, not for himself.
And what was the result? People got angry. Who is he to claim that right? And it isn't right to forgive those people -they are bad. Forgiveness is dangerous business. It is nice in theory. We like it. It sounds like a nice story or holiday greeting card. It whiffs of sentimentalism. But when it comes to real forgiveness for real crimes and offenses and acts of indiscretion, that is a different story. We want to put restrictions and limitations on it. We want to be able to say who should and should not be forgiven and when and why.
This reminds me of that passage in Romans 3 where the apostle Paul wrote:
"It [putting Jesus forward on the cross for sin] was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26)
In putting Jesus forward on the cross, God reclaims the right we want to take for ourselves. In the cross, all of humanity is indicted under sin, no exception, and God takes back and declares openly what is rightfully his: the place of the just Judge. This is, I believe, part of the offense of the cross -God reclaims from us what is rightfully his and simultaneously exposes our attempts to claim that right to open shame.