April 2019 // If God forgives, can I do whatever I want?
There are many questions that stop children and young people wanting to know more about God. Rather than trying to answer questions they’re not asking, we thought we’d go straight to the source and hear from the experts themselves. Welcome to ‘What does yellow taste like?’
“If Easter tells us that God forgives everything, can I just do whatever I want and then say sorry?”
“I guess so technically. But I don’t think Jesus died just so you can keep doing stupid stuff.”
“But all that stuff is already completely forgiven right?”
The Bible tells us we have all sinned. Sin is a bit of an old-fashioned word, which comes from a Greek word used in archery, which means ‘to miss the target’.
I have never shot a bow and arrow, but I recently played darts and it’s fair to say that every dart I threw hit either the floor, the ceiling or the wall behind me. Not once did I hit the board, let alone the bullseye!
Sin isn’t just murder, theft or drug dealing; sin is anything that misses the bullseye of God’s perfect standard. Author Francis Spufford describes sin as “the human tendency to muck things up”, except he uses a different word that rhymes with ‘muck’! We all ‘muck’ things up, even if we don’t mean to.
The Jesus Storybook Bible says: “No matter how hard they tried, they could never keep God’s rules all the time...Only one person could keep all the rules. And many years later God would send him –to stand in their place and be perfect for them.” When we do something bad there are consequences, especially if we are caught! But the message of Christianity is that God forgives our sins. At the cross, Jesus took our punishment, our shame and the consequences we should have experienced, so that we can be free from our sin. In 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT), we read: “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”
To be forgiven, all we have to do is say sorry or ‘repent’, which, translated from another Greek word, means to ‘do a U-turn’. If you ask for forgiveness and repent, you are choosing to actively turn away from your sin.
When people experience God’s forgiveness it often results in a life change: a U-turn. This is true of characters in the Bible, and there are also many modern-day examples (see iamsecond.com). Through God’s forgiveness we are given a new life. We will still miss the mark, but God’s forgiveness isn’t just a one-time thing. It is never too late to say sorry.
Romans 6:1-2 (MSG) says: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realise we packed up and left there for good?”
Because God forgives everything, we could, in theory, do whatever we want. However, in order to ask for forgiveness we need to actually be sorry. If we keep deliberately sinning we’re probably not sorry, and maybe don’t actually want to be forgiven!
If we’re in a close relationship with God we won’t want to keep sinning. Think of a parent or carer you have a good relationship with. They are kind to you, sacrifice their own desires to put you first and love you no matter what. If there were certain things they asked you not to do, you’d probably try to avoid those things. Otherwise it would hurt their feelings and put a barrier between you.
If you love your parent or carer and want to remain close, you wouldn’t purposefully do things that would make you feel far away from them. It’s the same with God. Nothing we do can make him love us more (or less), but as we draw close to him we will want to live in a way that pleases him. Yes, God will always forgive us, but the closer we become to him the less we will want to purposefully hurt him in the first place.