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There is the element of choice in matters of forgiveness: choice in the dispensing and receiving of forgiveness; choice also in requesting forgiveness.  If forgiveness may be rejected, if it is up to the trespasser to accept or not accept forgiveness, it is also up to that actor to ask forgiveness.  That is the process we find in several scriptures.  For example, in the Genesis 50:17 account, the brothers of Joseph asked for it; they said something; they “spake” something, then it was reciprocally dispensed to them in the language of tears.

So shall ye SAY unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, THE trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when THEY SPAKE unto him (Genesis 50:17).

In the New Testament also, we find the same truth about the place of confession in obtaining forgiveness.   According to Apostle John,

IF we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

If, according to 1 John 1:9, it takes confession to obtain forgiveness, the logical implication is that ‘if’ one does not confess their sin, they cannot receiveforgiveness for it.  Also, if what one chooses to confess is their righteousness or their ‘points’ rather than their sins, they might win a case but lose forgiveness. Worse still when what they choose to ‘confess’ is the other person’s fault rather than theirs.

Therapeutic though it is, confession of sin is an implicit admission of guilt, which is why someone might never wish to say they are sorry, because they never agree that they ever do anything wrong.  That is fettering pride.  Unfortunately, by the same arrogant spirit that would not let them admit a fault and pursue peace, they also disqualify themselves from receiving forgiveness from Heaven (Matthew 6:12, 14).  Such people maintain before God a constantly swelling file of transgressions that would never be cleared despite the numberless ‘confessions’ they make to God and to priests, more out of a sense of religious than righteous duty (Mark 11:26).

Confession says, “I committed this trespass against you.  I am sorry about it.  Please, forgive me.”  It does not excuse itself.  True confession does not just say, “I apologise for everything.”  ‘Everything’ is nothing.  Nobody is offended by ‘everything’ or by ‘whatever,’ but by a specific act or the omission of it.  Sometimes, such generalized apology for ‘everything’ or for ‘whatever I did’ is merely pride eloquently disguised as penitence.  True confession for sin or application for forgiveness would clearly admit guilt; it would say who was wronged and who was the wrongdoer.

Forgiveness is requested, it is not demanded.  One does not say, “But I have been begging him since and he doesn’t want to forgive.  After all, is he god that I should be begging him over this very small matter?”  ForGIVEness should be a gift, not an extortion.  Penitence is deeper than the words of confession by which one ‘applies’ for forgiveness.  If confession has no root in a repentant heart, if it is only as deep as the tongue, then it had been mere religious or ceremonial oration, which could be very offensive to the sensitive soul, and might do worse damage than before.

From The Preacher’s diary,