What are the benefits of a relationship with God? The psalmist is clear--the steadfast love and mercy of God. Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism that the benefits of Holy Communion are forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give and not only to others, but to ourselves.
To forgive others, to forgive ourselves, is to move forward in life without the burden of shame, lament, anger or grief. This does not minimize the suffering or mean the transgression did not take place. There are consequences. Forgiveness is no miracle eraser; it is, however, an invitation to a theology of the cross. We call the thing what it is, we name the transgression, earthly justice can and should be meted out. But then because God has forgiven us, we can also forgive. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
Steadfast God, you are merciful beyond measure and far beyond our worthiness. Stir up your Holy Spirit in us that we also might be able to speak truth, acknowledge our sins and those of others and move towards forgiveness. For the sake of the one who gave himself freely for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Psalm 103:1-13 (NRSV)
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits--
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.