Forgiveness; Not Easy to do, But Commanded
Sometimes forgiving someone can be one of the hardest things we ever have to do. As Christians, we must always remember that the principle of forgiveness is at the center of our faith. The New Testament is very clear about our duties to forgive. We do not have a choice in the matter. The apostle Paul said, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13). Paul related our forgiveness toward others to the forgiveness that Christ gave to us. He made a similar statement to the Ephesians when he said, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Paul told us in that statement that we should forgive because God forgave us through Christ. Jesus prayed “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12) when he was teaching the disciples how to pray. Jesus also said immediately after the prayer, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Jesus and Paul directly linked God’s forgiveness of our sins to our willingness to forgive others who sin against us.
The apostle Peter and Jesus had a revealing conversation about forgiveness, where we learn that God does not put a limit on the amount of times we should forgive each other. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21) Jesus answered Peter by telling him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22).
As we consider all of this, we also need to remember what Jesus described as Biblical forgiveness. God only forgives us of our sins when we repent of them. In like manner, we are expected to forgive those who have sinned against us when they repent while asking for forgiveness. We should always have a forgiving spirit, even toward those who are not penitent, but Jesus commands us specifically to forgive those who actually repent. Jesus stated, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Repentance and forgiveness go hand in hand.
All of us have had times when we found it difficult to forgive someone. We cannot settle for holding a grudge when the Bible is so clear on what we must do. Consider the scriptures above along with these following points.
1. We must remember that God forgave us even though we have sinned against Him, and are so undeserving of that forgiveness.
2. We must remember that people are not perfect and make mistakes. You never can tell when you may be guilty of the very same thing you are not willing to forgive someone else for.
3. We must remember the influence that our lack of forgiveness toward others will have on weaker Christians who must learn to forgive others as well.
Maybe when we find ourselves in a situation where we need to forgive someone, we should remember these three things. I’m sure they will help us all see the importance of following God’s example and forgiving others. -Ed