Forgiveness is not just a way to avoid punishment. When we start to view it this way, we ask ourselves questions like “how much can I get away with?” Both implicitly and, sometimes, explicitly, we view forgiveness as this sort of cold transaction or as some sort of game we can use to get ahead.
The real reason forgiveness is so valuable is as a mechanism toward what Scripture calls righteousness or social harmony. It propels us forward. It brings us together in unity, empowering a community to serve effectively and to look more like Christ. The key component to being forgiven is not how much you have gotten away with but what are you going to do next.
When we conceive of forgiveness as a sort of consequence-avoider, it undermines our lives. The fruit we bear is affected. The path we are on is still the one that led to the mistake. Forgiveness is an attempt to grow, to be better, to move in a different direction
If forgiveness is not ushering us to the ways of Christ, we are not stewarding (and, likely, not perceiving) forgiveness well. Forgiveness is not just a prize to consume; it is an opportunity to steward.
Forgiveness is a beautiful and essential tool for any community, any relationship. It is part of what brings us together and ushers us toward our shared vision. And it is a beautiful way to bear witness to those around us to the God of forgiveness.