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The Work of Forgiveness

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

It is hard to be forgiving all the time, some of the time, or even at all. We tend to be more forgiving of our children because we love them and are teaching them the way that they should go. We tend to be more forgiving of our friends because we have invested a relationship with them that is more personal than associates. And to our associates and acquaintances we are somewhat willing to overlook there offences. Even so with family, friends and associates it goes against the grain of the worldly way of life. We live in a get even mentality and I understand that all too well. We sometimes look at forgiveness as a pardon for justice. This is not true. My father was always quick to forgive and to exact the penalty for my misbehaviors. This is so as we all, every one, be held accountable for the deeds we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

We all were lost in disobedience to God’s Word, His plan and purpose for our life, and living out of His will. We’ve all been down that road of self-centered living giving no glory or honor to our Creator for the blessings He gives to each of us every day. Does that mean that we were bad people? Not necessarily, it means that we were on a road that leads to a dead end. As Solomon put it, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) But in His incomprehensible love God forgave us while we were still in rebellion. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

In His example, the model for our lives, forgiveness is a duty and responsibility that we each have towards our brothers and sisters. As we pray each day, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This sets the standard going forward that if we are unwilling to be forgiving of others when they sin against us, then we have barred the door to our own forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

If one sins against us and comes for forgiveness we must forgive them. As we look at the parable of Jesus in Matthew 18:22-35 we realize that God has forgiven us all our transgressions. If in turn we do not forgive those who have transgressed against us in the same manner, then that would be a great abuse of the love that God has shown towards us. If we do not forgive as the Father has forgiven us then we will have to repay for the offences that we have committed also. “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34-35)

We have to consider those who sin against us and do not realize it, those who sin against us knowingly and do not seek our forgiveness, and those who sinned against us believing they are in the right. Even as they have hurt us by their actions we still must forgive them. There are many Christians who sin against Christians thinking that they are doing a service to their Lord and Master. “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2) They are not going to ask for forgiveness but they need to be forgiven not only for their benefit but ours as well. Vengeance is not ours to take, vengeance belongs to the Lord as He is the Just and the Justifier. We want them to be free for forgiveness as well as ourselves.

When David became involved in the multitude of sins through his affair with Bathsheba he tried to cover it up. Sin does not just go away, it stays with us, and brings our countenance down with it. We have to understand the full weight of sin in that we think that we are getting even with someone else or we are giving just deserves. We need to realize that it is God’s Word that has been broken and not just our own. Someone may sin against us or we may sin against someone but the truth is the sin is against God. David realized this and also realized that he was broken before God and only God could restore him. All sin is against God and God will judge us for it. “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4) This is why we need the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness is something we must do, yet, there is always an inner argument if we should. I hear so many time people say “I just cannot forgive that person for what they did.” But we know we must. We have the love of the Father in us and therefore we must love those for whom His Son died. We are told to love and pray for our enemies. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. We know it and yet there is that debate that flows within. An answer is to follow the action of the Prophet Daniel. Decide ahead what we are going to do and let that be our decision. It eliminates the strife we must bear. “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” (Daniel 1:8) It is a decision to be forgiving ahead of the need and settles the matter.

Still we feel the hurt, anger, grief, betrayal, and a host of other feelings. They may stick around for a while causing discomfort but the best way to meet them is face forward. We have a counselor that we can go to, the Spirit of Truth who will lead us to all truth. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13) We have friends that we can seek comfort in. There is nothing better that an ear to listen to the griefs that we have and to share the burden. But we must face them and work our way through them. Emotional scars are painful and take their time to heal but when we work our way through them we are the more stronger. You never fall to the top of a mountain, you climb your way up there. When you reach the top your vision is much better to see the many paths ahead.

We will find ourselves at a greater peace with God, a greater peace with our self, and a greater peace with the one who has sinned against us. There can be no peace between us and God if we have sinned against Him. There will be no peace between us and the one who has sinned against us. The only way to restore that peace between us and God is His forgiveness and the only way to restore peace between us and one who has sinned against us is our forgiveness. The Apostle Paul gives us this key to have peace with God, ourselves, and one another. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, November 15, 2015

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