Is It Hard to Forgive Sins?


Author: Roger Barrier

Which is easier?  To take money out of an ATM or to put money in?

To write a check with insufficient funds in your account or get to the bank in time to cover it?

To control your anger or lose your temper and spew it all out.

To buy stocks or to pick the right ones?

 To pick up the phone and call the dentist for an appointment or to sit in the chair and open your mouth?

To paint a house or pick the right color?

To believe the word of a Lawyer or the word of a Politician?

 To hold a grudge or to forgive and let go?

To say to a sick person in the hospital, “Your sins are forgiven?” or “Get out of that bed, you’re healed? Why would you use that one?  I will never do that.  No.  But Jesus did.

Luke 5:17–26 is the gripping story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. He asks a penetrating question.

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” 

 “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

He said, “Which is easier to say?” Obviously, any one can say, “Your sins are forgiven”, and no one could prove whether it happened or not.

But, “Which is easier to do?” Obviously it is much easier to heal a man physically than to forgive his sins. A physician can heal a body. Only God can forgive sins.

Jesus is saying to these men, I’m going to demonstrate to you that I have the power to forgive sins, by showing you that I have the power to heal—which is easier to do but harder to say, because you can verify it.”

At first, this contrast sounds strange.  We assume it was easy for Jesus to forgive. He said so many glorious words about forgiveness. He seemed to exhibit it so easily in His life. He forever demonstrated it on the cross. We imagine that forgiveness spontaneously overflowed out of Him.

I think not.

Let’s talk a moment about the concept of sin in America. Today very few people will admit they are responsible when anything goes wrong.  The idea of personal sin is becoming a lost concept.

I think that a defining moment on our view of sin occurred in 1974 when: 

Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon.  A turning point occurred in the American psyche.  The most powerful man in the world was guilty of breaking laws, obstructing justice, encouraging people to lie.  Americans watched in fascination to see the result.  Then he was pardoned.  There is no consequence for sin.  He was never tried or impeached.  The most powerful man in the world was not held responsible. He walked away scot free!  America has never been the same.

We are told that our national leader’s behavior doesn’t matter!  When we say, it does matter we are scolded for thinking these behaviors might be wrong.

No longer it is hard to evangelize in a nation which has no collective consciousness of sin.  We have trouble seeing sin when it slaps us in the face.


“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

There is no doubt how the average American would answer today.  “It is pretty hard to heal, but, forgiveness is easy.  So you sinned, who cares, it is not so much that we forgive you—we don’t care if you sinned or not!”

But God does.  Sin breaks his heart.  God built into us all a sense of righteousness and holiness. He had such dreams for us!  Unfortunately, we all fall far short of His expectations. That is why we need His forgiveness. The cross of forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. Romans 5:12 reads:

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

Then Paul writes:

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. NIV

Let me illustrate our condition – 

Did you ever see an apple with a wormhole? You assume the worm began on the outside and ate its way in. No! Worms always eat from the inside out. How? Because a worm’s egg is laid in the blossom and is born in the heart of the apple and he works and eats his way out!

The Bible teaches sin is at the heart of every man. We are flawed at the very core of our being.

This is why society is like it is.

Gross iniquities – murder, robbery, sensuality, drunkenness.

Sins of the spirit -, vindictiveness, worry, jealousy, bad temper, pride, and lust.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the prodigal represents sins of passion, and, ruinous as they are, he did come home again. But the Elder Brother represents sins of the spirit. With the Prodigal home, the music playing, dancing on, the Elder Brother “was angry, and would not go in.” Bad temper, envious, bitter – that keep some people from the Father’s house more hopelessly than sins of passion do.

Sins of society. 

Greed, sexual immoratlity, materialism; abortion…and the list goes on.

Sins of neglect.

It is not just the things we do; it is the things we leave undone that haunt us – the letters we did not write, the words we did not speak, the opportunity we did not take.

What was the trouble with the priest and the Levite who left the victim on the road? What did they do? That was the point – they did nothing.


Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”


This may not be a big issue to us; but it is a big issue with God.  It needs to be a big issue with us.

Today I want to take us into the heart of God.

So often forgiveness from God is presented as easy, “Come, everybody, your sins forgiven!” No, it is hard to forgive sins – hard for us, hard for Christ. 

You see what the Master implies. It is easier to tell a palsied man to walk – it is easier to meet any other human need – than to say, Thy sins are forgiven.

Why, then, was it hard for Jesus to forgive?

In the first place, because He took sin seriously.

It is easy to make light of sin; but when we take it seriously, it is hard to forgive.

Suppose that someone here were a specialist in tapestries, prized them, loved them; and suppose he saw some gang members vandalizing one, ignorantly, brutally ruining a lovely thing that he knew to be worth a king’s ransom – would you think it easy for him to forgive that?

I can’t tell a tapestry from cheesecloth. I would make light of it.  Who cares! But for the expert to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do, would not be easy, for tapestries are very important to him.

Comics and starlets may make light of sin. But listen, sit and talk with some man or woman in our church who was sexually abused as a child – and they rarely really recover – and it’s hard to forgive that sin of that father or stepfather or uncle or brother … or whomever.

To say that sin does not matter, to make light of it, to take it easily, to be gracious and tolerant about it – there is plenty of that. But that is not forgiveness. That is moral looseness. To condone sin is easy; to forgive it is hard.

Don’t take sin lightly.  It is a wicked thing which hurts and destroys.


 In the second place, Jesus found it hard to forgive because He loved people.

In the Gospels you find it hard for Jesus tremendously severe upon the scribes and Pharisees. Why? He says, “Beware of the scribes… they that devour widows’ houses.”

His mother was a widow. We never hear of Joseph after Jesus’ early boyhood. He knew what it was for a woman to be left with a family of children. Whenever in Jesus’ ministry a widow appeared His gentleness overflowed.

When, therefore, he was hard on Pharisees, picture his mother in the background of his mind. “They that devour widows’ houses” – that made it hard to forgive.

When you care for people, it is hard to forgive sin.

Recall George Eliot’s story of Adam Bede – Hetty Sorrel, pretty, vain, and superficial; Adam Bede – the stalwart carpenter; Arthur Donnithorne, careless, impulsive, well-meaning, rich. You remember Adam Bede’s honest love for Hetty and his wish to marry her, Hetty’s ruin at the hands of Donnithorne, her hapless child, her frenzied wanderings. You remember the scene where Donnithorne, having tired desperately to make amends for what never could be mended, goes to Adam Bede and asks for forgiveness.

Well, Adam gives it, but it is not easy, “There’s a sort o’ damage, sir,” says Adam, “that can’t be made up for.”

In the third place, Jesus found it hard to forgive because it cost Jesus Christ His life on the cross to forgive.

He could heal without going to the cross. But He could not forgive without going to that cross.

Let me show you how much He hurts on the cross when He is rejected.  READ HEBREWS 10:29

A man was taken prisoner in World War II by Axis armies. Concentration camps, torture, his will wouldn’t break. He returned home after the war with his head high… body broken… but his spirit strong. He learned it was his son who had turned him in. What four years of torture couldn’t accomplish, the betrayal of his son did in four weeks. He was dead of a broken heart inside of a month.

The cross means that it was not easy even for God to forgive. It cost.

Don’t ever condone or approve sin.  Hate it.  It cost Christ His life on the cross.

Everything what I have said thhas been leading up to this final and climactic matter:

No sin ever is done with until it is forgiven.

Either your sin has been forgiven or else it is yet in you as sin. I think that is about the solemnest fact in human life.

The Scarlet Letter, classic in American psyche.  Revolves around four sins

Hester committed adultery and forced to wear Scarlet A. She wouldn’t reveal her lover.

Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister, committed adultery with Hester.  Hides sin, refuses to confess, Gallows and dies.

Roger Chillingsworth was Hester’s husband.  A doctor who figures out who ruined his marriage and sets out to destroy Arthur with guilt and feelings of hypocrisy.  (By the way, in high school?  The herbs he mixes to help Arthur’s nerves are a slow working poison.) Hester pleads with him to repent of vengeance and bitterness.  He refuses and becomes a miserable man.

The people of Boston sinned in the way they treated Hester and Pearl.

The only one who turns out all right is Hester.  She confesses her sin and becomes lovely to behold.

Hollywood made The Scarlet Letter into a movie.  They changed the story to an American ending.  Instead of dying over guilt, instead of becoming humble and lovely, Hester and Arthur celebrate their love and live happily ever after.

The movie was a monumental flop because it was not real.  No one sins and lives happily ever after. You know it, and deep down inside the American people know it.

You know it is true; either your sin has been forgiven or else it is in you still as sin.

1 TIMOTHY 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners!”

We must deal with our sin.  Come to the cross for forgiveness.

Not far from New York there is a cemetery where there is a grave upon which has inscribed upon its headstone just one word – “Forgiven” There is no name, no date of birth or death. That stone is unembellished by the sculptor’s art. There is no epitaph, no eulogy – just that one word, “Forgiven.” But that is the greatest thing that can be said of any man, or written upon his grave… “Forgiven.”

Have you been forgiven?

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