Q If God will always forgive us, why do we need to even ask for His forgiveness?
a God’s inmost nature is Love and Mercy. His forgiveness is automatic. Our petitions for forgiveness can do nothing to change God’s nature. The real question concerns human nature. Our humanity inclines us to all kinds of evil. When evils are active in us they block the Lord’s constant inflowing love (Secrets of Heaven 4997). By sincerely asking for forgiveness, our hearts are turned away from selfish thoughts and feelings and become more receptive of His forgiving love.
Q What is the “Unforgiveable Sin?”
a In the Gospels Jesus says “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come ”(Matthew 12:32). Here the Lord is talking about hypocrites who sought personal power and wealth more than anything else yet made pretense of being pious, merciful and forgiving. This kind of hypocrisy conceals a distorted and completely selfish mindset What makes it unforgivable is not the sin itself but its effect of closing a person’s mind to acceptance of Divine forgiveness.
Q What is the New Church perspective on “Original Sin.”
a In New Church teachings, Adam’s sin stands for the gradual fall of the entire human race from a purer, loving relationship with God. Today, that sin is still evident in human tendencies to selfishness, anger, enmity, revenge and injustice. Still, people have never lost their ability to choose between the good path which leads to heaven or the sinful one that will land them in hell. No one is condemned for sins they did not actually commit.
Q How can I deal with my flaws that keep getting me into trouble?
a “The Lord continually excuses, and continually forgives, for He continually feels compassion” (Secrets of Heaven 8573: 2). But destructive patterns repeat themselves. Lasting improvement requires genuine admission of fault, petitioning the Lord for help, and catching yourself before an evil desire becomes active in your thinking. Just as an addict avoids situations where his addiction is triggered, learn your own ”triggers” and avoid them if possible. Be gentle with yourself, and continue to look to the Lord and pray for help even if you fail repeatedly. He will continue to give you strength in this most important work.
Q Is forgiving another just forgetting or letting go of anger?
a I want to say no, because it sounds too simple. But it really is pretty straightforward, just not easy for most of us. Our innate bias is to favor self. To forgive people their trespasses against us takes character strengths that are years in the making and only fully developed when we have become angels. However, if we are doing our part to rectify our identified external character flaws, we can be confident that the Lord is simultaneously working behind the scenes to build our inner strength of will. Through active spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation and inquiry in His Word, the letting go process gets easier and memories of past wrongs become weak and are eventually set aside.
Rev. Phil Schnarr is School Pastor at Bryn Athyn Church School. For more information visit www.brynathynchurchschool.org.