Matthew 27:50-51b | Hebrews 10:19 | 1 Samuel 15:22

Isn’t it easier to ask forgiveness than permission?

Grace Hopper, longtime U.S. naval officer and a pioneer of computing, was famously quoted as saying, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” meaning you might as well do what you think is right and be prepared to apologize if you thought wrong. 

And this is a true enough statement, especially in a large organization like the Navy. Sometimes getting permission to try something new can mean waiting on a response from your boss, or their boss…or even your boss’s boss.

But God’s organizational structure is much simpler. Everyone has access to the Big Boss himself.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.

Hebrews 10:19 NLT

The “Most Holy Place” mentioned in this scripture is the Presence of God. In the original Tabernacle and later in the more permanent Temple in Jerusalem, there was an ultra-sacred room called the Holy of Holies. It was separated from the rest of the (already holy) temple space by a heavy, exquisitely crafted curtain featuring pictures of heavenly creatures (cherubim) in its design.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, a certain priest would be allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bull on the altar and ceremonially make things right between God and his people Israel. This was the culmination of a year-long system of sacrifices as a method of making amends for the Israelites’ bad choices.

Until one day, when the whole system changed…

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 

Matthew 27:50-51b

When Jesus made his ultimate sacrifice for sins, the curtain was no longer needed. Anyone who claimed Jesus’ sacrifice for themselves could get an audience with God.

If you believe that Jesus made his sacrifice for you, then you can talk to God–and hear from God–directly. You don’t need to go through multiple levels of hierarchy; you have an express elevator to the top floor! With that being the case, it is literally more difficult to ask forgiveness than permission. 

On the other hand…what if the Big Boss tells you something you don’t want to hear?

That is when you learn to trust him. Do you believe He loves you? Do you believe He wants what is best for you? If you do, you can put your own wants aside and obey him, knowing that his way is better.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

Questions for Group Discussion

  • In this context, is ‘sacrifice’ saying you are sorry? If so, how? If not, explain the difference.
  • Why would obedience be better than sacrifice? What does your obedience communicate? What does your sacrifice communicate? Why is one better than the other?
  • Do you think your parents would agree that, to them, obedience is better than sacrifice? What does this say about your role as God’s child? How does your relationship with your parents reflect your relationship with God?

Challenge: Here’s the Story

All you need to do for this challenge is write a story–a true story–about a time when you dealt with an instance of obeying versus making amends. It could be about a time you chose obedience. Or it could be about when you chose not to obey, and to make amends afterwards.

If you chose obedience, answer these questions:

  • What obstacle did you have to overcome to make the choice to obey?
  • What was the outcome of your decision to obey?
  • What did you gain from your choice?
  • What did your choice cost you?
  • How have you grown from this experience?

If you chose sacrifice over obedience, answer these:

  • What led you to choose not to obey?
  • What was the outcome of your choice?
  • How did you sacrifice to make things right afterward?
  • Aside from what you sacrificed, what was the cost of your disobedience?
  • How has this experience affected your character?
  • How have you grown from this experience?