A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend because he did something that he couldn't allow his girlfriend to forgive him for. He wanted to be punished for his actions and breaking up with her was a way of him punishing himself. He planned to ask her back out "with a clean slate" after some time went by, but eventually she got another boyfriend and it destroyed him.
He is a dear friend of mine and he doesn't believe in Jesus as the son of God and thinks Christianity is a waste of time or a joke. We've talked for years about our beliefs, I am now at the point where I know my words won't change him, God will through some more life experience under his belt and however else He wants. So we maintain our relationship by knowing where we stand, knowing we disagree, not really bringing up a long conversation about it, sometimes he'll remind me that I'm wasting my time but we just don't talk about it much anymore and I pray for him almost every night.
So when he was going through this heartbreak of his girlfriend going out with another guy and he asked me what I thought. I really could not explain his situation without explaining the gospel.
"You don't understand forgiveness, you want to earn her forgiveness instead of apologize and accept it. You want to earn something you can't obtain. The very definition of forgiveness and grace is unmerited. If I borrowed $500.00 from you and paid it back, no forgiveness necessary, the debt is settled. It's when I come across a debt I cannot pay that I need forgiveness. If I borrow $500.00 and cannot pay it back that's when forgiveness steps in. You are trying to make up for something you cannot make up for, you need forgiveness, it's your only hope. This is the core of what I believe, what the Bible preaches, that we cannot pay a debt that we rightfully owe, but someone has and we need to accept his forgiveness"
The very problem with the morality gospel is that we try to earn forgiveness. We owe $500.00 and pull a few bucks out of our pockets and think we earned it because we tried paying it.
Accepting forgiveness is first understanding you cannot pay the debt or make up the fault and then depending fully on the other person to make up for it.
If I have $1,000 in my bank and let someone borrow $500.00 and they ended up not being able to pay it off, if I forgive them, my bank doesn't go back to $1,000 that $500.00 I don't get back. It's not fake debt. Forgiveness isn't saying something didn't happen, because even if I said that, my bank account would say otherwise. Forgiveness is acknowledging the debt, but removing it. Because remember, if I had $1,000 in my bank and $500 goes to someone else and they end up not paying it, I end up paying it, because my account is $500 less than it was before. The forgiver pays the debt.
That is the gospel. The forgiver paid our debt. The person we owe, paid the price and our pocket change didn't even help.