“You’re forgiven, you’re forgiven!”

I wonder how many kids grow up in homes (and schools) where they’re constantly yelled at and punished for making mistakes. I wonder how it affects them in later life, too.

I know how it affected me, because much of my childhood was spent in a British Boarding school and I have vivid memories of how I was treated. I remember being locked in a room for bad behaviour and being left in total isolation, and many times being hauled out of bed at midnight to stand outside in the corridor, shivering with cold for hours. And during my teenage I was constantly being punished, the punishment sometimes extending for weeks.

I learnt that the only way adults could deal with my lapses and stupidity was by punishment. They weren’t the least bit interested in my apologies or explanations for my behaviour, and there was never a hint of forgiveness. The only time I remember an adult even mildly accepting my apology and reason for my behaviour, the punishment was meted out anyway. So I assumed that even if I was forgiven, I’d still be punished.

Not surprisingly then, when I became a Dad, I thought this was the way I should deal with my own children. I based my relationship with them on their behaviour. I didn’t forgive easily, if at all, until I realized how God operates. It was an eye-opener! All I could hear from God’s word was, “You’re forgiven, you’re forgiven!” Every stupid mistake I’d made, every lousy action I’d done, every rotten mood I’d ever been in, all of them had been erased by Christ’s death and wiped from God’s memory forever, Hebrews 8:12.

Years of guilt and self-loathing evaporated in seconds. My head was clear of it. It was so freeing that when I heard a crash in the kitchen and found my granddaughter cowering in the corner, crying her eyes out because she’d broken one of our dishes, I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed her by the shoulders and I yelled at her, “You’re forgiven, you’re forgiven!”

The effect was electric. She looked up at me, stopped crying, and said, “OK,” and off she went, as happy as can be. It was amazing. I’d never experienced the power of forgiveness on someone else like that before. Her mind was completely cleared of all guilt and self-loathing and off she scampered as if the incident had never happened.

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven,” Jesus said in Matthew 9:2 – or – “Cheer up, kiddo, it’s already forgotten.” Imagine growing up in a home (and a school, and a church) like that.

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