“No doubt you have wronged other people in your life and they have forgiven you. That is certainly an expression of the grace of God. But don’t use the experience of human forgiveness to understand the forgiveness of God. Remember: we have been enemies of God. We still find the seeds of rebellion in our hearts everyday; we didn’t even seek God and beg His forgiveness, yet He is pleased to forgive.
One common feature of all world religions, except for the religion revealed in the Old and New Testaments, is that the gods demand some kind of human penance when they are wronged. Human beings must pay the gods back by giving more money, adhering to proper rituals, going through some form of self-punishment, or practicing some means of works righteousness.
When religions are shaped by the way people treat one another, such a system is unavoidable. The psalmist knows this. He knows that all other gods keep records of who has been naughty and who has been nice. But God is holy, and his forgiveness is holy. Nothing can compare to it. As a result the psalmist says, ‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared’ (Ps. 130:3-4).
Do you ever think that your sins are too bad, and that forgiveness for those sins requires you to get your act together first? If so, you don’t fear God. You are minimizing his forgiveness. You are acting as though his forgiveness is ordinary, just like that of any person or make-believe god. In contrast, the fear of the Lord leads us to believe that when God makes promises too good to be true, they are indeed true.”
–Ed Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 194-5.