If you look up the yearly synagogue reading schedule, you will discover that Isaiah 53 is never read. Ever. Not in the weekly Sabbath readings. Not on any special holy day. Now you might think, “Well, there are probably a good many other passages that are omitted as well.” And you’re right; there are many other passages that are omitted. But this omission is a particularly curious one.
When we casually absolve everyone of everything irrespective of their own attitude toward their sin, we make light of sin, cheapen the grace of forgiveness, and short-circuit what God wants to do inside them. Sin is ultimately against God not me, so forgiveness is bigger than me; that’s why I have to exercise it according to God’s rules.
As a Christian, am I obligated to forgive everyone who sins against me? Do I forgive only if the offender asks me to? What do I do if he never asks forgiveness?
All this came up while my daughter was counseling at a Christian camp this summer. One of her campers (“Anna”) asked her whether she was obligated to forgive her father for being verbally abusive to her, even if he never apologized for his behavior. See, someone else had told her that she needed to, and she wanted to know if that was right.
We shouldn’t let anxiety defeat us. But there are things that we ought to be concerned about. How do we know when we’ve crossed the line from legitimate concern to sinful worry?