One of the bad things about vacation, especially if you have things planned to do, is that kids can get really tired and cranky. When they start misbehaving there is a fine line that parents must walk between being disciplinarians and extending forgiveness. If we don't discipline them when they misbehave, they begin to believe that it is acceptable to misbehave. If we are so harsh with our discipline that a transgression is unforgivable and they start missing out on activities and don't get to do anything they can adopt an attitude of "Well, I've already blown it, what is the point in trying to behave?" When we come down on our kids (especially on vacation), we want them to believe that they stand a chance at forgiveness so that we stand a chance at getting them to behave.
Psalm 130 expresses a similar situation between us and God. Psalm 130:3-4 reads, "Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared" (HCSB). At first, that sentiment seems a little odd. How does offering forgiveness lead to fearing God? But the principle is exactly the same as I described with my children. If God didn't offer forgiveness, what would be the point in fearing God? We have all sinned at some point, most of us before we truly begin to grasp the consequences. Without the prospect of forgiveness, there is no point in trying to obey God because we are already damned. But if we can be forgiven, then there is a possibility that trying to live right from this point forward will pay off.
As parents, employers, supervisors and people in authority, there is a tremendous lesson to be learned here. Offering forgiveness does not mean we are weak. Offering forgiveness does not have to undercut our authority. In fact, not offering forgiveness may undercut our authority. The possibility of forgiveness can be motivation for people to do their best because they understand that one failure does not mean disqualification from the benefits of living and working well. But refusing to offer forgiveness can harden people against us and de-motivate people because there is no longer any point in trying to do things the right way.
But this principle is also significant because it is a logical basis for us to remain grounded in the hope of God's forgiveness. There are times when we think we have messed up so badly there is no point trying anymore, when we think we have disqualified ourselves because we have done something so terrible that forgiveness is no longer an option. If that is where you find yourself, the psalmist reminds us that God offers forgiveness so that we might fear Him. God would rather forgive you and bring you back onto the straight and narrow than condemn you. God is more interested in you living right from here on out than in punishing you for the misdeeds of the past.
"Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared." God wants to forgive us. Will we accept forgiveness or harden ourselves for no reason?