Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Forgive Them (Part 3)

The bible gives several examples of how God responds to our unforgiveness of others:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.6

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?'

Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me he begged, and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.
7

What this is saying is that we who have been forgiven much by God must forgive the little things from others. Should I expect God to forgive me for every sin I’ve committed while I won’t forgive someone for a slight? I need to remember this when I pray because I want God to hear me, I want God to forgive me and I want God to bless me. To forgive means that I accept the atonement of Jesus Christ, not only for myself but for everyone else as well; His blood covers us all. This enables me to forgive.

The final step to forgive is restoration. This means to give back that which was lost. When someone offends me, they lose value in my eyes because what they did becomes more important to me. This is contrary to what God did for us.

…it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ…8

The Hebrew word for restore is shuwb (shoob) which means to turn back. My thinking of biblical restoration is to return to the starting point. It’s like taking a sheet of paper and folding it in half; the beginning edge of the sheet and the ending edge are both at the same point. Anything written on that sheet of paper becomes irrelevant because the folding has covered up all the writing.

The blood which was shed by Jesus Christ serves as an eternal atonement for our sins. This does not give me a license to go on sinning. On the contrary, it means that I should live my life in the best possible way to please God. It does not mean if I sin I am lost again, because I have an advocate with God the Father. That advocate is Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for me (always).

…I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.9

As a result, we are restored to our status as sinless before the eyes of God. Restoration is critical to forgiving. When I no longer place value on the offense (through substitution), I am acknowledging that Jesus Christ atoned not only for me but for everyone else as well, I see others as God sees me; forgiven.

Restoration is not the same as reconciliation or repentance. A person may never acknowledge they hurt me but I will not put any obstacle in their way hindering them. What I'm learning is that the responsibility to forgive is with me.

If you are harboring hurts, memories and pain from others, you need to free yourself and those who hurt you. Don’t be like the Three Stooges, following a Niagara Falls scenario through life, turning back, time and time again. That would be like a DVD that won’t track because of a smear or scratch on the disk. It’s time to let it go and give value to one truly deserving, Jesus Christ. Won’t you forgive? I often find that it helps when I answer the question, What is of greater value to me?
  1. Jesus Christ, or
  2. the offense
Let us forgive one another and be an example of Christ to others.

Footnotes:
  1. Matthew 6:14-15, NIV
  2. Matthew 18:21-35, NIV
  3. Ephesians 2:5-6, NIV
  4. 1 John 2:1, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA

7 comments:

Laura said...

This is all so true. I'm currently going through a time in my life where I need to remember to forgive. Thanks for writing this...it came at a perfect time :)

sarah said...

I've learned forgiveness is a process that requires forgiving 70x7 sometimes...and more...

Jane said...

Thank you for your extensive research into this topic, and thank you for your constant support at my blog. :)

MTJ said...

Laura: Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad that this topic offered a perspective which allowed me to see things differently. Blessings to you.

Sarah: Yes, I agree. I did not mean to imply that forgiveness comes in a moment for any of us; it occurs over time. My intent was to describe what for me was a realization that forgiveness is necessary in my personal relationship with God.

Jane: I had not thought of myself as a blog supporter but in reading the blogs of other Christians, my support would appear to be implicit. I'm therefore happy to support you and other Christian writers/bloggers.

christy rose said...

This was an excellent post! I have thought that it was always important to remember how much I have been forgiven and it seems to make it easier to reach out in forgiveness toward others.

A Peculiar Person said...

A very thourough and well laid-out examination on the topic of forgiveness. I completely understand what you mean when you talk about wanting to see someone else punished for the wrong they did to you - that was something I struggled with for years.

But you're 100% right! The blood and the mercy of Jesus that covers my every sin and offense covers every person who has ever acted or spoken negatively against me as well. For me to hold their faults against them is to say that his blood isn't powerful to wash away their sins.

I have realized that much of the unforgiveness in my life stemmed from my desire to defend myself. If someone lashed out at me, spoke badly about me, stole from me, or lied about me I felt the need to bring justice against them for the "harm" that they did to me. But one day I realized that when I'm under the shelter of the almighty God there is nothing that can come against me that can prosper. It doesn't matter what gets thrown at me - I'm covered and protected. So what was I so mad about? Someone said something that wasn't true? SO WHAT! It can't cause real problems in my life because I'm covered by the blood. Someone stole something of mine? Who cares? My riches are in heaven! When I realized that nothing anyone else did could ever hurt me, the "offenses" I used to get so mad about suddenly seemed too trivial to be worth my time.

MTJ said...

Christy Rose: I have been just the opposite. I've found it easier to ask for forgiveness than to give it. The key for me is the act of giving which speaks to my attitude of selfishness. Learning to emulate the nature of Christ-centered giving taught me to overcome my selfish nature.

Peculiar Person: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I didn't anticipate such a timely reply but I do welcome it. I had similar thoughts when I read your post on this subject. When I examined how God forgives versus how I forgive I recognized a distinct flaw in my approach; I wasn't forgiving at all! People say, "You forgive but you never forget", but I can't accept that view because it would mean that I still reflect and hold on to those who offended me. I must let go of the memory in order to forgive.