C3 – FORGIVENESS
God is such a forgiving God. Isa.43:25 We are to be imitators of God. If we strive to be godly, then we, too, must be a forgiving person. Eph.5:1 It is through the blood of Jesus Christ that we receive forgiveness of sins. Acts 10:43 Jesus was our one sacrifice through which we could receive this forgiveness. Heb.10:12 Jesus also had authority to forgive sins although that ability was questioned by the Pharisees. Matt.9:2,6
Just as we follow God as His imitators, we also follow Jesus. Early in His ministry as Jesus was choosing His apostles, His invitation was, “Follow me!” Matt.9:9 His invitation remains to day in Matt.10:38 Jesus used the example of sheep following their master. Jhn.10:27 Since Christ is merciful and even suffered that we could have forgiveness, we should follow in His steps. 1 Pet.2:21
It seemed that forgiveness of one individual toward another was a new concept as Jesus began teaching. The O.T. concept was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Ex.21:24 Jesus quoted this in Matt.5:38. Jesus continues to change this concept in Matt.6:14,15. Here forgiveness is stated very simply. It would be difficult to miss the implications here.
Many levels of “hurts” can happen in our lifetime. Someone may have done or said something that “hurt our feelings”. Perhaps this is one of the more common ones. How personally do we take these actions or remarks. Of course, let’s remember that we never are guilty of the same. We are all human and make mistakes. We must not forget this. We have not “walked a mile in their shoes”. What prompted those actions or words? Are we immediately in a huff or are we attempting to understand them?
Some truth may be contained in their hurtful words or actions. We need to look within ourselves to see if they are seeing something we don’t see. This takes a great deal of humility. Ps.25:9; Jam.4:6,10 Is our purpose to prove we are right or to strive to be a good example and follow our Lord?
The truth of the matter is that we are no longer living for self. When we became a Christian, we died to self. Self should not be hurt. As Christians we are living for Christ with Christ in us. Col.3:3 Everything we do and say is to be to the glory of Christ. Col.3:17; 1 Cor.10:31
Jesus endured many hurts. Many did not believe Him. His hometown tried to kill Him by throwing Him over a cliff. He was ridiculed. He had no home—no place to lay his head. People were hired to lie about Him in court. He was slapped, beaten until nearly dead, and finally crucified. All that was for us—and we get “hurt” if someone says or does something against us. Think again and follow the Lord. It’s not about us.
Perhaps circumstances have involved disloyalty, betrayal, and even brutality. Having a forgiving heart does not mean we need to stay in those circumstances; however, we cannot hold bitterness that festers into hate. Lk.6:22,23 We even pray for our enemies. Matt.5:44 Sincerely praying for those that are unlovely to us should help melt away the feelings of unforgiveness. As we feel our need of forgiveness from our Savior, let us remember that forgiveness if reciprocal. As we forgive, so we will be forgiven.
What comes before forgiveness? When we seek forgiveness, a deep need of repentance needs to be present. Forgiveness cannot be expected if a sorrow isn’t present for what was done nor can forgiveness be expected if there is a continuance of the same wrong. This is true as we ask forgiveness of our Lord. 2 Cor.7:10 It is also true as we ask forgiveness of someone else. Lk.17:3 The Prodigal Son is always a good example of repentance accepted and forgiveness granted. Lk.15:21,24
A forgiving spirit is essential for a Christian even if the offender has not repented. Matt.18:35 In Mk.11:25 the forgiveness in our heart is what counts when we stand before God. That does not release the offender from repenting but we can answer only for our heart—not theirs. Matt.6:14,15
Even though we cannot answer for them, the need to bring them to repentance and to God remains very important. Lk.17:3 One meaning of the Greek word used for rebuke is to admonish. When someone admonishes they urge, warn, give earnest advice. It must be done in a spirit described in Gal.6:1 Even though this is talking about a sin that a Christian has fallen into of which he was probably unaware and not planned, it could also be an offense against a brother in Christ. It is with great humility and gentleness that such a situation should be approached. A sincere look at our own life before approaching another would be in order.
If nothing is accomplished by a one to one approach, then the outline of the next steps are outlined in Matt.18:15-17. Prayer both before any approach as well as during the conversation would be of great value. If this is something entirely personal, another approach could be taken. 1 Cor.6:7 Peace and unity within the brotherhood is an essential element of the church. If that is destroyed because of our selfish whim, we are in the wrong. Rom.12:18