If we are to forgive others as God forgives us, there is another important truth we must master. Forgiving is latitudinal.
Suppose I decide to take a trip around the world. There are many ways to do that, but I choose an unorthodox route. Starting in Ottawa, where I live, I travel directly north. (Don’t worry–I brought a jacket.) At some point I will begin to travel in the opposite direction. After I reach the magnetic north pole, I will actually begin to travel south!
But listen to what the David says in Psalm 103.11,12 about how God forgives:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Now, let’s suppose I’ve chosen a more conventional route for my around-the-world tour. Beginning in Ottawa I begin to travel directly west. If I continue in that direction, at no point will I begin to travel east. Theoretically, I could travel west indefinitely and never once change direction!
That’s how God forgives–from east to west, not from north to south. The compass needle of His steadfast love only points in one direction. The GPS of his forgiveness never whines, “Recalculating…” He never reaches a pole.
How unlike Him we can be! We can offer forgiveness and even express it to another person, but when it is convenient we can quickly change direction and behave as if we’d never forgiven in the first place. This is not what pleases God, and it frustrates those we say we have forgiven and raises legitimate doubts about our integrity.
Let’s learn to forgive the way God forgives, as Paul instructs us to in Ephesians 4.32.
“Go west, dear friend. Go west.”
Image is from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.