This is a guest post from Peter Matta - a pharmacist in Toronto who has guest posted on this blog before. In today's post, Peter asks a strange question that might leave some feeling a bit uncomfortable. But don't get hung up on the initial question; the principle underneath is an important one for all to understand concerning our relationship with God. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
The other day I was discussing love and faith with a friend and this question came up: “would I forgive my wife if she cheated on me?”
(For all the women reading, please reverse all genders, ie. “would I forgive my husband if he cheated on me?”)
My answer was an immediate “OF COURSE I WOULD! If I couldn't forgive her, how on earth could I ever hope that God would forgive me?”
But it’s important to realize that forgiveness and repentance are two COMPLETELY different things.
I would forgive her regardless of whether or not we stayed together. Even if we ended up divorcing (which I would despise) I would still forgive her; that’s not the issue. The issue is whether or not I would stay with her; and that fully depends on whether or not she repents.
If she cheats on me, and she comes to me, confessing her sin, crying, admitting her weakness, admitting it was a mistake and she hates herself for it, that she never meant to hurt me… that she became weak in a moment and wants to never do it again, that she loves me and only me and she wishes, more than anything, for me to forgive her, and to know that she loves me, and to continue loving her even though she in her heart knows she doesn't deserve it...
Then yes, I would forgive her and I would love her even more than I did before. I would comfort her, and tell her it's okay. I would cry with her... I would encourage her that she doesn't have to ever be weak again. I would tell her that I'm not leaving her side, and that I will be with her every step of the way – that I love her more than myself.
But what if she cheats on me and falls in love with another man? What if she cheats on me and continues to do so intentionally, without ever repenting as above? What if she simply doesn’t love me anymore?
Well then there's not much of a relationship to save is there? What difference does my choice make – whether I stay with her or not? In fact I don’t have that choice; she already made it for me. I would undoubtedly still forgive her, but the relationship would be over.
And so it is with God. It's not like He doesn’t forgive people who don't repent. It's not as if He “punishes” them by throwing them into the fire of hell when they sin. No, He still forgives them, and His heart is still broken because they fell out of love with Him.
Our relationship with God is not one of obedience between master and slave, but rather one of love between Father and child... Creator and creation... Husband and bride.
And so if we do not love Him, then what difference does His choice make whether He stays with us or not?
Undoubtedly He forgives us, but the relationship is over. At that point, we can’t be with Him in Heaven, because the relationship is over.
Finally, if I cheated on my wife, I would repent. I would beg her to forgive me. I would do whatever it takes – for as long as it takes – to allow her to regain her trust in me. I would make changes in my life so that it doesn't happen again. I would put all my effort into repenting – otherwise it wouldn’t really be repentance.
I could only hope and pray that she would forgive me and decide to stay with me. But if she didn't, I would understand... because I know I would deserve to lose her because of my actions.
Thankfully, God has promised that He would never leave us, no matter what! No matter what we do, God has promised to never leave us. Nobody – and I mean nobody – loves like that!
There are no conditions for His love. He still loves us even if we don't repent; but without repentance, there isn’t much of a relationship left to save. The choice is ours. God gives us the freedom to choose, but in the process He cries out to all of us every day and says:
“Repent… repent… come to Me, live with Me, walk with Me, abide in Me, love Me.”