I've been thinking a lot about sin and forgiveness lately. Why are we so willing to sin against God? Because we know that those sins will be forgiven. Why are we so unwilling to admit our mistakes to our fellow man? Because people are nowhere near as forgiving as God. More often than not you can expect to have you nose rubbed in your mistake by your fellow man. God doesn't rub it in when we make mistakes. We may have worldly consequences to deal with but we know that God will grant his forgiveness when we seek it.
Before I go any further let me be clear about who and what I mean when I say God. I am talking about the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, triune God of the Bible. The Hebrews called him Elohim and Yahweh, among other things. I'm talking about the God who created heaven and earth and all things therein. I'm talking about the God who made mankind in his image and then sacrificed his son for our sakes after humanity spurned him and sought our own ruin.
Karl Marx once said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Faith in God does impart certain qualities to the believer but a perpetual drugged state is not one of them. Marx thought of religion as a way for the upperclass to maintain control over the lower classes and a way for the lower classes to cope with the harshness of their lives. Far from placing them into a drugged stupor faith in God grants strength to the believer no matter what their social status is.
Knowing that we have God's forgiveness gives us the freedom to act where others would be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Along with his forgiveness, God's love, grace, and mercy give us the strength to bear the burdens of living in a fallen world.
God gives us the strength to be poor, the strength to be sick, the strength to be persecuted, the strength to forgive our persecutors, the strength to be merely unpopular, and the strength to love the beautiful popular people. He gives us the strength to touch the untouchables, feed the hungry, and care for the sick and dying. He gives us the strength to walk in the valley of the shadow of death and the strength to die. God gives us the strength to say, "I was wrong," the strength to bear the consequences of our mistakes, and the strength to say, "I forgive" when wronged.
Many episodes in the Bible illustrate God bestowing this kind of strength on believers. First the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). David asked for and received forgiveness for his sins but the child that was a result of said sin still died. (2 Samuel 12:1-23) Adam and Eve were forgiven their sin against God but they were still evicted from the Garden of Eden never to set foot in there again (Genesis 3). Paul was forgiven for persecuting the early church but he still had to deal with the mistrust of other Christians that he had earned while persecuting them. And he himself was persecuted for his faith. (Acts 7:57-58, Acts 8:1-3, Acts 9:1-31) Peter denied Christ three times before he was crucified. But Peter later found the strength to become an influential leader in the early church ultimately loosing his own life for the Christ he had denied. (It is interesting that Jesus foresaw and made provision for this.) Jesus Christ hung between two thieves as they died. One asked Christ for forgiveness and received it but he still died that day for whatever crimes he had committed.
Faith in God is the back bone of the lowly and the lofty alike giving us the strength to suffer the consequences of evil in our world.