If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you're probably heard a sermon or two about forgiveness and perhaps read a few articles or even books about it. With the volume of teachings, books, and discussions about forgiveness that abound across the body of Christ, is there anything else to say about it?
I like to make things really simple so I have one question. How serious are you about your commitment to Jesus Christ?
The answer to that question will reveal how serious you are about this issue of forgiveness, which is an ongoing challenge for all of us because people will be - well, people! Including you and me! Therefore, forgiveness, and its importance in our daily Christian walk, must never be a topic relegated to some back shelf of learning.
Jesus actually summarized the topic in a magnificent way. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matt. 5:7
When someone hurts or offends us, we have two choices: to give our ego free rein and strike back, or to choose the way of the Lord and forgive; which means to show mercy.
Think of the last time you were offended and had your feelings hurt. Did you make 'them' feel guilty for what they said or did? Or did you show graciousness? When we want to see them punished or rebuked, or want to make them uncomfortable, we demonstrate that our commitment to Christ is not as strong as we think it is. (I know - Ouch!)
Here's the bottom line: Jesus said in Luke 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. When has our heavenly Father refused to forgive you? When has He thrown the book at you, so to speak, when you sinned against Him? '...as your Father is merciful...' That is the standard to which we are called.
Grace is giving people what they don't deserve...and that's what God gives us every day of our lives. It is when we show mercy, graciousness and a willingness to forgive quickly that we are the most godly.
Unreserved forgiveness is a choice we have to make. Joseph's brothers hated him, betrayed him, sold him into slavery. In Egypt he was subjected to an unjust prison sentence and had no contact with his beloved father for some 13 years. When he finally saw his brothers again, he had every opportunity to take revenge but he didn't. In fact, he protected them, he never told the Egyptians what they had done to him, he did not allow them to be anxious for he said to them, 'Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves. It was not you who sent me here, it was God.' In other words, he went so far as to let them save face and never have to confess to Jacob what they had done. Amazing! That's why Joseph could be trusted with greatness.
I repeat, unreserved forgiveness is a choice we have to make. Instead of striking back, you let them off the hook. You forgive as God has forgiven you. (Are you thinking 'is she crazy?')
Think a minute: what have you done in the past that you passionately hope no one will ever know about? Has God forgiven you for that sin? Yes, if you repented. In a manner of speaking, He has let you 'get away with it' before others by forgiving you; you could have been caught red-handed and suffered terrible embarrassment. But God was merciful to you. Truth be told, He covered for you many times even before you cried out for forgiveness, isn't that right?
Since He has treated us that way, should we not treat others the same way? When we are merciful towards others, it means that we are passing on to them the very blessing we ourselves have received from our heavenly Father.
Now doesn't that put the issue of forgiveness in a different light? Too often we have focused on our hurt feelings or injured pride with regard to whether or not we will forgive. We rather need to focus on our heavenly Father and how He has treated us when we have hurt Him. If Jesus is truly Lord of our lives, then feelings can't be.
That's making it simple, isn't it?
Forgiveness towards others is not an option; it is the choice of every person who is utterly serious about becoming Christ-like. And don't get hung up on waiting until 'they' apologize. For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Ephesian 4: 2-6 Your forgiveness was assured before you were ever born!
God is so utterly amazing! He made us and therefore understands us far better than we understand ourselves. He not only sets the example of how we are to relate to others, but knowing our frame, He even motivates us to forgive with a promise that it is to our benefit! Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matt. 5:7
Let me re-phrase that in plain English: There is no doubt that we imperfect creatures will need God's mercy in the future - most likely many times. God understands that and says: 'Let me show you a way that will guarantee you will receive mercy when YOU need it. Give it freely away to others and you'll have an abundance given back to you!'
Embrace the practice of undeserved forgiveness towards others. I promise you, the angels rejoice and your Father in Heaven smiles when you act just like Jesus!