Responding with Forgiveness Part 2 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Our Lord does not suggest that we suppress hard feelings and ignore the wrong and hurt that we experience at the hand of others. To do this would create a poison within our minds that would eventually produce an eruption. That’s what happens when you let your emotions get the best of you; you blow up.
Also, our Lord does not suggest that we retreat into self-pity, which can lead to discouragement, despair, and depression. I had an uncle who was a dentist. He was still practicing when he was in his seventies. But, one day he was told he had cancer and he just gave up. He moved back to his hometown, Minden Mines Missouri, where he died soon after the move. That’s what happens to a lot of people who feel sorry for themselves when they experience hard times and troubles. They become discouraged, desperate and depressed and they don’t live very long.
The Bible tells us that we are different; we are not like others who have no hope. If you will just trust God, you will have all the security you need.
Our Lord specifically places on us the obligation to give the gift of forgiveness to those who mistreat us. We often find it difficult to be forgiving, because we have a natural impulse to retaliate. We may find it difficult to be forgiving because we labor under the impression that to be forgiving may encourage continued mistreatment. Or we may find it difficult to be forgiving because we want the one who injured us to be worthy and to deserve the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness is always an undeserved gift. I am thankful that God gives us the gift of forgiveness. If we wait until someone deserves our forgiveness we will harbor feelings of anger and hostility toward that person. Our Lord not only taught forgiveness, but He also practiced the habit of forgiving. While He was on the cross suffering for the sins of mankind, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
The first point was, We All Have Experienced the Pain of Being Mistreated, and the second was What Jesus Taught about Forgiveness. The third and last point is—
The Grounds for Being Forgiven.
When Jesus suggested that His disciples give the gift of forgiveness “seventy times seven,” He was thinking of the terrible consequences that would take place in the hearts of the ill-treated if they refused to forgive. Jesus who always had perfect insight into human nature knew that hate in the heart would be like a cancer in the soul. In several places in the Bible Jesus gives the reasons why we should be forgiving. Today, I will give you four of them.
First, we are to give the gift of forgiveness, because we have received the gift of forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-27)
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
This Parable was used by Jesus to reinforce the importance of forgiveness. It begins with a certain king, who represents God, to whom the debt is owed. The one who owed Him is a servant who had access to the king’s money, and he represents the individual sinner; that is you and me.
Ten thousand talents was an overwhelming debt. It would be equivalent to millions of dollars in our society. It represents the debt of sin which the sinner cannot possibly pay by himself. The king commands that the debtor be sold, along with his wife and children, and all that he owns, and that he receive all the profits. However, that would not be enough to pay off his debt. Even an entire lifetime of service to the king could never repay such a debt. Then the compassion of the king can be seen as he releases the debtor and forgives (or cancels) the debt. The point of the parable is God’s total forgiveness of our sins at the moment of salvation. The debt has been paid by Jesus and we are set free from it forever! Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). The basis for Christians forgiving others is the fact that they themselves have been graciously forgiven by God, and released from any obligation to make amends.
Next, I want to say, “We need to consider the terrible cost of an unforgiving spirit if we have difficulty giving the gift of forgiveness” (Matthew 6:14-15).
It says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Today, God is forgiving us on the basis of what Jesus did for us, not on the basis of us forgiving someone else. God’s saving grace is in full view when God forgives us. The Lord’s Prayer is not talking about our salvation where it says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He is talking, instead, to those who are already saved. He doesn’t wait for you to forgive before He forgives. This is not His method of settling the sin question. He gave His Son to die, and it’s on this basis that God forgives. Once again, giving the gift of forgiveness is not a price we pay to receive forgiveness. But those who harbor hate and anger in their hearts have closed the door through which God’s forgiveness would come to them.
A third point is, we must give the gift of forgiveness in order to prevent Satan from establishing a beachhead in our thoughts. (2 Cor 2:10-11). It says in 2 Corinthians, “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” You see, the devil tries to push us one way or another. Sometimes the devil gets us to shut our eyes to gross immorality. There are many instances of that in our churches today. I read about a preacher who had trouble with women in three different churches. Each church he pastured, knew his past record, and still, they accepted him as their Pastor! By shutting their eyes to this man’s gross immorality they were hurting the cause of Christ. That’s how Satan gets a beachhead in a church. Once he gets his foot in the door, he does everything he can to attack the Bible and peoples faith.
Finally, a forgiving spirit will bring healing to the injured spirit. Many people tremble with pain because they have been mistreated and sinned against God. Jesus speaks to these people and He says we are to forgive “seventy times seven.” This is a strong statement that we need to take literally. Every time we are hurt, we need to give the gift of forgiveness again. Some people can’t understand this. They think that if you do not forgive, that you will not be forgiven. In reality, it is impossible to forget. On the other hand, if we forgive, and do it repeatedly, for all practical purposes, we will forget to the point of no longer harboring hate or striking out in retaliation.
God’s forgiveness of each one of us is free, and it’s complete, and it’s forever. He doesn’t hold our sins over our head, but, instead, He offers forgiveness to each of us personally. On the basis of His forgiveness of us, we can be forgiving toward others. If you have been holding a grudge against someone, you can give yourself a clean heart and a clear conscience if you will ask our forgiving God to help you to give to that person who injured you the gift of forgiveness.