In his book Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards makes the observation that love causes Christians to see sins committed against themselves as chiefly being against God. He writes, “Love to God is opposite to a disposition in men to be angry at others’ faults chiefly as they themselves are offended and injured by them: it rather disposes them to look at them chiefly as committed against God.”
In David’s famous lament of his own sin, Psalm 51, he pens one line which is actually quite difficult to swallow. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” This is so troubling because he committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to deceive and cover it up, then when that didn’t work he had her husband killed. How can he say that God is the only one he sinned against when he obviously sinned against plenty of others?
The first thing to consider is that Psalm 51 is a poem and in poems drastic imagery is commonplace. David is not saying, in the line quoted above, that he did not sin against anybody else. What he is saying, which we must grasp, is that the party most offended by human sin is always God.
The good news, for us, is that God is also the most gracious in response to human sin.
He is patient.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34b).
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).
Now back to Edwards’ point. How should knowing this affect our relationships with one another? Paul makes it plain in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Our forgiveness of others should be swift, kind, and often. If it’s not, trying harder won’t help. Behold God’s forgiveness of you. Be amazed by God’s forgiveness of you. Grow in forgiving others as God has forgiven you.