To accept forgiveness means to admit that you’ve done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.

This seems to explain what Jesus means when he says to God, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  Jesus is ‘not’ saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others.  In the first place, forgiveness that’s conditional isn’t really forgiveness at all, just fair warning; and in the second place, our unforgiveness is among those things about us that we need to have God forgive us most.  What apparently Jesus ‘is’ saying is that the pride that keeps us from forgiving is the same pride that keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.

-Frederick Buechner (Beyond Words)   


Buechner is a genius.  He is my favorite writer for more reasons than I can list.  His ability to simplify and hit the nail on the head without being neither dry or dogmatic is one of the many reasons I so admire his writings.  Here, he is addressing the forgiveness we extend to one another for certain but he is also eluding to the forgiveness God extends to each of us who come to him for it.  He spares no words in getting right to the heart of what can be by far our biggest obstacle in receiving forgiveness—pride.  He’s not slow to name it.  And while God has no pride that stops him from granting us forgiveness—we certainly can have a fair share of it ourselves when it comes to receiving the forgiveness we need so badly—and want so desperately.  Have ever been in a spot where you really wronged someone and forgiveness was something you certainly didn’t deserve (like we ever do)—can you remember having the hardest time asking for it?  I can.   And no—I won’t tell why.

God is looking for humility.

 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.            (2 Chronicles 7:13-15, ESV)

Our pride blocks the flow of a forgiving and a forgiven lifestyle.  How we need to be forgiven!  But it’s like we don’t want to forgive ourselves because if we are transparent—we then become vulnerable—but forgiveness requires vulnerability if anything.  We have to submit ourselves to someone else’s mercy—that is, if they have any.  And we can even run a little low on mercy with ourselves—imagine that, and it explains maybe why we have such trouble forgiving ourselves.  God has mercy to give and more than we ever give him credit for.  But we still fight the temptation to get sucked up into believing that he’s going to one of these days say—Alright, you have asked one too many times and I’m tired of forgiving you—you have had plenty of time to clean up your act and get this one right, of all things.  Look at you, you are pitiful.  I have forgiven you and forgiven you and here you are again! 

But God never says anything of the sort.

It’s us who have the pride.