Anger is the result of love. It is energy for defense of something you love when it is threatened. If you don’t love something at all, you are not angry when it is threatened. If you love something a little, you get a little angry when it is threatened. If something you love is an ‘ultimate concern,’ if it is something that gives you meaning in life, then when it is threatened you will get uncontrollably angry. When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, is is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.
Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior. Amen
What is forgiveness, specifically? When someone has wronged you, it means they owe you, they have a debt with you. Forgiveness is to absorb the cost of the debt yourself. You pay the price yourself, and you refuse to exact the price out of the person in any way. Forgiveness is to a) free the person from penalty for a sin by b) paying the price yourself. The ultimate example. We are told that our forgiveness must imitate God’s forgiveness in Christ. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph.4:32). a) How did God forgive? We are told that he does not ‘remember’ them. That cannot mean that God literally forgets what has happened–it means he ‘sends away’ the penalty for them. He does not bring the incidents to mind, and does not let them affect the way he deals with us. b) How did God forgive ‘in Christ’? We are told that Jesus pays the price for the sins. ‘It is finished’ means ‘It has been paid in full’ (John 19:30). The Father gave up his Son, and the Son gave up his life. God absorbed the cost in himself.
How do you get the power of grace? You can’t create this power; you can only reflect it to others if you have received it. If you see Jesus dying on the cross for others, forgiving the people who killed him, that can be a crushing example of forgiving love that you will never be able to live up to. But if instead you see Jesus dying on the cross for you, forgiving you, putting away your sin, that changes everything. He saw your heart to the bottom but loved you to the skies.
In the early days after becoming a Christian I first heard of this idea that Jesus Christ somehow ‘intercedes’ for me before the Father. I got this out of the book of Hebrews, where Jesus is depicted as our great high priest who stands before the Father for us, as priests in the Old Testament did for the people. When I first heard the idea of Jesus Christ representing me before the Father, it made me think of him going before the throne like this: ‘Good morning, Father, I represent Tim Keller. And my client, I admit it, is having a very, very bad week. He’s broken three or four promises he made to you. He has broken several of your laws that he knows and acknowledges. He has sinned a lot this week. He deserves to be punished— but cut him a break, please, Father? For my sake? I really ask that you give him another chance.’ That’s how I imagined him speaking. And I also imagined the Father saying in reply, ‘Well, all right. Okay. For you, one more chance.’
Now the trouble with that imaginary scenario is that Jesus does not have a case. He is simply pleading for another chance. And I remember thinking, ‘I wonder how long even Jesus can keep that sort of thing up?’ I wondered when the Father would finally say, ‘That does it! I’ve had it!’ But my imagination was ill-informed. It is not sufficient for a lawyer to just resort to tugging on the heartstrings of the jury or the judge, or to try to delay the verdict, or to appeal to technicalities. The lawyer doesn’t need spin or emotional manipulation – but a real case. And that is just what Jesus has.
What is his case? John goes on to tell us in 1 John 2: 2. First, he says, ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ When Jesus goes before the Father he is not actually asking for mercy for us. Of course it was infinitely merciful of God to send Christ to die for us, but that mercy has now been granted, so Jesus does not need to beg for it. 1 John 1: 9 says that ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ Notice it does not say that if Christians confess their sins God forgives because he mercifully gives them another chance. No, it says he forgives because he is faithful and just. To not forgive us would be unjust.