Love God and Forgive Others
If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14
Gods forgiveness of our sins isn’t conditional. Christ has paid the price already, so our forgiveness is already purchased. But the legal fact that the penalty for our sins has been paid doesn’t assure us that we’ll feel forgiveness to those who have hurt us.
We live in the real world, and we all get hurt by people from time to time. Sometimes, it’s a small cut, but sometimes people leave us with gaping wounds. Anger is a normal response to injustice and hurt, but if anger isn’t resolved, it soon turns into resentment and bitterness-which sour our attitudes and poison every relationship.
Bitterness is one of the chief causes of emotional stress and stress-related illnesses. We relive painful events over and over, and we rehearse ways we will get revenge. We can’t sleep, and we can’t eat. Our relationship with God becomes shallow and empty. Our lives are consumed with the hurt inflicted on us, but quite often, the person who hurt us isn’t even aware of our daily emotional pain, and he or she might not even care.
The only remedy to break this pattern of bitterness is to forgive the one who hurt us. No it won’t be easy. We’ll have to go to the well of God‘s love and forgiveness and drink deeply so that we have plenty to pour out on others. The choice to forgive, though, open the floodgates of God‘s presence and power, we just have to give up our bitterness first.
“If we would read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Gary Inrig in his book on the parables of Jesus says that those things we can put out of our mind or forget don’t need forgiveness. Forgiveness is needed for those deep hurts, wounds or mistreatment that we can’t ignore or pretend they didn’t happen. Forgiveness- at least the level that God calls us too- is impossible with mere human effort. You may tell yourself that you’ve forgiven someone but the next time you see them the hurt, anger or resentment surfaces again. Is it possible to forgive, release and actually love those who have harmed you in some way? Christ says it is. Beyond that He also says that our receiving forgiveness is connected to our giving forgiveness.
We must conclude then that forgiveness is a serious matter with God. God who forgives us our sins against both Him and humanity expects those whom have received forgiveness will also give forgiveness. The root of forgiveness is mercy. Mercy is the gift given to those who in truth deserve judgement. Those who do no wrong need no mercy nor forgiveness. But those who have sinned or wronged others need grace and mercy. We who had no defense before a holy God received mercy and forgiveness when we deserved punishment. That’s the power of forgiveness. When God saw us in our sins, He chose to offer us forgiveness and that forgiveness was costly. It cost God the giving up on His Son and it cost His Son His life. We cannot expect then that to forgive or to show mercy comes without a price. Sometimes it may cause us to suffer loss, to lose position or prestige. Sometimes those whom we forgive continue their evil ways. We cannot think that forgiveness brings about change in the person we’ve forgiven. On the cross Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who had been instrumental in His crucifixion but nowhere do we read that they all changed.
It is for this reason that we haven’t the capacity in and of ourselves to forgive. We need the help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to forgive. Most of the time it requires intense seasons of prayer and supplication asking God to help us forgive those who have wronged us. Christ gives us some ways to strengthen our ability to forgive through decisive actions. Let me share a few scriptures with us:
First He says that we should remember that we receive what we give.
“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Then He instructs us to make the decision choose to do good and to bless those who persecute us.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him].
I share with you the following words from an article on the subject from the Institute in Basic Life Principles:
If we bless those who hurt us, God will take full responsibility for whatever punishment should be administered to offenders. It is our responsibility to overcome evil with good, and speaking words of blessing is one way to do that.
The Apostle Peter specifically addresses the need to bless those who revile us: “. . . [Do not render] evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile . . . . The face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Peter 3: 9-12).
The Apostle Paul gave this instruction to the believers in Rome: “Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not . . . Recompense no man evil for evil. . . . Avenge not yourselves . . . Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink . . . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”(Romans 12:14, 17, 19-21).
Apart from God’s marvelous grace, you will be unable to bless those who curse you, but with God, nothing is impossible. Jesus said, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. . . . But love ye your enemies, and do good . . . and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:31-36).
May God give us grace to live the life of a forgiver.
Dr. John Thompson