Rev. Protopresbyter Nicolas Kazarian, Ph.D., is the Ecumenical Officer and Director of the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Inter-faith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and parish priest at St. Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church in Manhattan.
Answers to questions surrounding the Christian faith. Email us yours at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: Can God Forgive the Same Sin Over and Over?
As a parish priest, I can say that yes, God forgives the same sin over and over as many times as we confess the same sin over and over. Somehow, our ability to come back to confession and seek reconciliation with God and His Church should be an indicator of the transformation that does or does not happen in our hearts. Missing the target is what “sin” is all about. We go to confession not only to seek forgiveness, but also to convert ourselves. The word conversion, metanoia in Greek, is central in our Orthodox Christian faith. It means a “a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion.”
Saint John Climacus, who lived in the desert of Egypt at the Monastery of Mount Sinai, at the intersection of the 6th and 7th century gave these inspiring words on conversion, metanoia, in his book The Ladder of Divine Ascent, central in the Orthodox Christian spirituality. “Metanoia is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Metanoia is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Metanoia is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Metanoia is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Metanoia is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Metanoia is purification of conscience. Metanoia is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Metanoia is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.” (Step 5)
Finally, when God forgives our sins, are we also able to forgive ourselves? Not always. By not accepting God’s forgiveness, we somehow invite the same sins to live in us.