by Stephanie Miller
Second chances can be a tricky thing to navigate. We’ve all been the recipient as well as the giver of second chances. Sometimes we can become entitled when it comes to receiving one, yet when someone seeks a second chance from us, we often withhold it from them. We do it for so many reasons: Disappointment, broken trust, fear of the past repeating itself, or uncertainty about how to move forward. Since feelings often lie to us, the real question we ought to ask ourselves is “What does God have to say about second chances?”
You Are Not Alone
There are many people in the Bible who royally messed up. These were the kinds of messes that impacted entire nations. The most royal and famous of them all might just be King David, who committed adultery and murder in one fell swoop. David also took a census of the people from a place of pride in spite of what God wanted. Ultimately, His actions brought the wrath of God onto an entire nation.
To reference more common and relatable figures, we think to Jesus’ disciples. Peter, James, and John went to pray with Jesus in the garden but abandoned Him when he was taken away by Roman soldiers; not to mention falling asleep in the garden when Jesus was praying in anguish before going to the cross- to save them! These friends and brothers of Jesus who walked with Him every day, spent time with Him, saw miracles, and did ministry with Him were nowhere to be found at a time when it truly counted. Peter denied Jesus, the one who had given him a purpose and destiny. Even the Apostle Paul, formerly known to the world as Saul, persecuted Christians. Last but certainly not least, Judas conspired with the Pharisees and came to the garden to betray Jesus. Even in that moment of deep betrayal, Jesus invited Judas into fellowship again by calling Him friend. He did not call Judas betrayer, as his sin would suggest; He called him friend. Psalm 103:10 says “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.” The story did not have to end there for Judas, but he made his choice. All of these were men who received second chances- whether or not they accepted them-, that they by no means deserved. But Jesus saw past their sin and saw their potential. We are all God’s children, even when we are lost, disobedient, or undeserving. When it comes down to it, are any of us truly worthy?
Forgiveness is a Command
Jesus of all people had every right to be offended, yet He chose mercy and shunned offense. He did all of that for us, even the people who hurt us; and yet we struggle to let people off the hook when they say something in a way we didn’t like, or they aren’t where we think they should be yet. Let’s not forget, we are commanded in scripture to forgive. It is not optional. Sometimes it takes supernatural strength and grace that only God can give us. Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT)
We must forgive to be forgiven. We were not created to hold bitterness and unforgiveness in our hearts; we were made for union and fellowship with God and others, just like in the garden. Our inability to wipe the slate clean and give people another chance often speaks to hidden unforgiveness and it can reveal a broken view of self and others. Conversely, sometimes we can’t forgive ourselves and have trouble accepting forgiveness when we have done wrong. Extending and receiving forgiveness are tied together, and they reveal what is going on inside of us. When we are in the wrong, we must also be willing to accept forgiveness and forgive ourselves. We cannot truly accept forgiveness if we haven’t forgiven ourselves and truly allowed God to heal us. If we have a forgiveness problem, it often starts within us.
There Are No Perfect People
God does not expect us to be perfect, as in never making mistakes; He knows we are human and that even our best efforts sometimes fall short. What He does desire is sincerity. We should view others, and ourselves, through eyes of grace and truly consider that we’re all human. Sometimes we create unrealistic expectations for people and other times people don’t meet even our own realistic expectations and we harbor disappointment. So often we forget that we ourselves are not faultless. We live in a broken world. Sin came and fractured what we were supposed to be. We were not created to live in sin; but we were created by a perfect God who intended for us to be in perfect unity with Him. Consider this: every flaw that you see in a person was supposed to be a strength. Yet, sin came and we are all battling with a carnal nature that is enmity against God. I am reminded that there is no hierarchy of sin. We have ALL sinned. (Romans 3:23)
Maybe we would all be more compassionate if we looked at ourselves as the worst sinner we know. Perhaps if we truly examine ourselves, we might realize we do not even have to look outside of ourselves to see how sin can destroy a future. Even David, a man after God’s own heart knew this truth. Yet he was STILL used of God. The same for Peter and the disciples who were ALL in the upper room. And what about Paul? He turned his entire world upside down by spreading the gospel! We should not withhold second chances from people to operate in ministry if they have truly repented and are walking in a new direction. Some of the most committed and impactful people I know in the church are people who have totally messed up and are not too proud to admit it. Perhaps if we recognized that we too have hurt others the way we ourselves have been hurt, we could show mercy like Jesus did and not call others by what they did to us; but rather by who they are and still can be. We can restore one another in love (Galatians 6:1) by making room for people to grow and change, and by helping them not to repeat mistakes. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NLT)
We serve a God who died to reconcile us to Himself. Being more like Him means we should do the same by killing our pride, fear, and uncertainty. Offering a second chance does not mean you overlook the issue; rather it means you openly acknowledge and commit to overcoming that issue, with each person giving one-hundred percent. After that, we are accountable to God with how we steward that second chance. Second chances don’t always look like things going back to “normal” and sometimes they should not go back to normal. But I think that if second chances could talk, they would say “We can and we will do better.”