I thought I knew what forbearance meant, and in a way I did but not to the full extent. Forbearance is used by creditors who are dealing with people who owe them money. They can make a forbearance agreement if the lender has assurance that the borrower will be able to pay back the amount they owe in the future. The agreement leads to the lender withholding foreclosure and allowing the borrower more time to pay back.

According to dictionary.com: Forbearance: abstention from or postponement of the enforcement of a legal right, esp by a creditor allowing his debtor time to pay.

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because of his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:22b-26

God is just. And we are sinful. Therefore, we deserve death (“for the wages of sin is death…” Rom 6:23a). It would be inside God’s just character to punish us all after our first sin. But instead he postpones that enforcement. Not because we are capable of paying the debt but because Jesus was the sacrifice that atoned for all of our sin (propitiation) and God knew back during the Old Testament that the coming of Christ would pay the sin debt of his people. He continues to give each of us that chance today (“…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23b).

Depth of mercy can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear
Me the chief of sinners spare?

-Depth of Mercy

I love when music teaches theology. I was thankful for this reminder this morning. We all suck. But it doesn’t end there. Satan likes to get us to stop there and be so engrossed in ourselves and our failure that we forget “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So our failure can drive us to repentance instead of self-pity.

Forbearance is such a good word.