Question

I understand forgiveness but have difficulty coming up with a modern biblical example. What are its effects? How does it heal us? I desire a word picture.

Answer

To answer your question, we first need to know what sin does to us – and those around us. A brief definition of sin is that it "misses the mark." God has set down in his Holy Word how we should live. When we veer from this path, we sin and this affects us spiritually, physically and emotionally. It can also affect those around us—family, friends, even those we’ve never met.

The effects of sin overlap. It affects us spiritually by separating us from God’s best for us. While a genuine Christian will still go to heaven even with unconfessed sin in their lives, they still suffer the temporary consequences from it. In the here and now they can feel estranged from God; he can seem rather distant. This causes great discomfort to a Christian (but interestingly enough, it is also a sign that we are saved). Sin also affects us physically at times. It may cause sickness of a person’s entire being. We may feel depressed and even paranoid that God no longer loves us. This can all be rather emotionally draining.

As for a modern word picture of forgiveness and sin, I'll use the following analogy of my recent experience with my teeth and my dentist.

I’ve had bad teeth since childhood. In the early sixties my father was stationed in Taiwan. In general it was a beautiful country, but in Taipei there were open sewers down the middle of the streets and the water had to be boiled before drinking. Though I was an avid brusher, when we returned two years later to the US I had sixteen cavities.

I'm now in my mid-60s and I still have bad teeth. Recently one tooth in my lower left quadrant became extremely painful. My dentist informed me it was a broken abscessed tooth. However, an x-ray of my mouth uncovered an even more severe problem—an abscessed tooth in the upper right quadrant which was described to me as "Grand Canyon" in size. What? This tooth hadn't been hurting!

Now just think about the ugliness of an abscessed tooth. It's a pocket of pus that forms as a result of a bacterial infection. This can get into your bloodstream and become a continuous poison flowing throughout your entire body. It can cause heart disease. It can kill you! In my case, the infection had eaten away at my jawbone to a point where, as my dentist advised, in a few more months my jawbone may have collapsed. WOW! The disastrous effects of a simple diseased tooth!

As a consequence of my deteriorated jawbone, I required what is called a bone graft. In my case, my "Grand Canyon" bone grafting necessitated a sterilized cadaver bone to be placed in my jawbone where my old tooth once was. This would help rebuild the diseased or damaged bone so that in six months a dental implant could be placed. In time the graft would be so enmeshed with my original jawbone you wouldn't be able tell the difference between the two. WOW! The effects of complete healing!

So today, and $2900 later, I’m feeling good again. My jawbone is reestablished. The infection is gone. Everything is working. And even the sciatic nerve condition in my back has improved as a result of this surgery!

From this analogy we can illustrate some general truths about sin and forgiveness:

Sin –

  • 1. It’s painful
  • 2. It’s destructive
  • 3. It’s messy
  • 4. It’s alive
  • 5. It grows
  • 6. It’s lasting
  • 7. It’s expensive

    Sin will take you farther than you ever expected to go. It will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay, and it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay. It can collapse your life.

    Forgiveness –

  • 1. God drives Christians towards forgiveness
  • 2. Sin must be cut out by the surgeon
  • 3. The surgeon places new life where old life once resided
  • 4. The cadaver bone symbolizes Jesus’s death upon the cross
  • 5. The cadaver bone is alive and growing in us
  • 6. Forgiveness is everlasting
  • 7. Jesus paid the ultimate price

    By grace alone, forgiveness will take you farther than you ever expected it could. It will keep you longer than you ever thought possible, and it will benefit you more than you could ever have imagined. The effects of forgiveness are life-giving and long-lasting.

  • Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

    Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).