John Piper on Forgiveness
In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper discussed on forgiveness. It hit me and gave me a new perspective on forgiveness. This is what he wrote:
The biblical motive for being a forgiving person may be deeper than being forgiven. It is true to say: The motive for being a forgiving person is that we have been forgiven by God when we did not deserve it. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). But the bottom of this motive is not God’s forgiveness, but what God’s forgiveness gives. It gives us God.
Why do we cherish being forgiven by God? There are answers to this question that would dishonor him, because there are benefits from forgiveness that a person may love without loving God. We might say, “I cherish being forgiven by God because I hate the misery of guilty conscience. Or ” . . . because I hate the prospect of pain in hell.” Or ” . . . because I want to go in heaven to see my loved ones and have a new body with no sickness.: Where is God in these reasons for cherishing forgiveness? In the best case he is there in all these reasons as the real treasure of life.
If so, then these delights are really ways of cherishing God himself. A free and clean conscience enables us to see more of God and frees us to enjoy him. Escape from hell at the cost of Christ’s blood shows us more of God’s commitment to merciful holiness and his desire for our happiness. The gift of seeing loved ones highlights God’s wonder in creating relationships of love. Getting a new body deepens our identification with the glorified Christ. But if God himself is not there in these gifts–and I fear he is not for many professing Christians–then we do not know what forgiveness is for.
Forgiveness is essentially God’s way of removing the great obstacle to our fellowship with him. By canceling our sin and paying for it with the death of his own Son, God opens the way for us to see him and know him and enjoy him forever. Seeing and savoring him is the goal of forgiveness. Soul-satisfying fellowship with our Father is the aim of the cross. If we love being forgiven for other reasons alone, we are not forgiven, and we will waste our lives.
What, then, is the root motivation for being a forgiving person? “Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We are not to forgive “as God . . . forgave” us. God forgave us in such a way that infinite joy in his fellowship becomes ours. God is the goal of forgiveness. He is also the ground and the means of forgiveness. It comes from him; it was accomplished through his Son; and it leads people back to him with their sins cast into the deepest sea. Therefore the motive for being a forgiving person is the joy of being freely and joyfully at home with God. At great cost to himself God gave us what we needed above all things: himself for our enjoyment forever. God’s forgiveness is important for one reason: It gives us God!1
1John Piper–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003), 100-101.