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THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, is maybe some of the most memorable words to come from the cross of Calvary. For it is in those words that our Grace is locked up. Just think about it for a moment. The one who has least sinned and was most sinned against, forgave at the most difficult time of His life.

More and more I stand amazed that this very attitude of Christ is one that too many Christians are not comfortable with in their own lives. We will council one another to let the same attitude be in us that was in Christ Jesus also, and that we must forgive no matter what the circumstances. But sadly this council I notice more and more is not applied to self. Too many have the attitude that any sin can be forgiven by God and by others, but not the sin against me. At this point we kick in with all kind of levels of justifying our own lack of forgiveness, with words like ‘in my context it is difficult to forgive, because the sin against me is great’, or ‘I am not Jesus, He can forgive, but I cannot’. We will claim that the attitude behind a statement like that is simply that I am not perfect, and that I  am still able to sin, but statements like I just mentioned are wilful, and are actually a demonstration of pride and a lack of humility and Christlikeness. In short it is selective sin. Surely if one believer is entitled to use that kind of argument, then it is the prerogative of all. What state will Christianity then be in? Our churches will be packed with a bunch of unforgiving Christians all in tension with one another and no sign of Christian unity, and none of us will be able to pray ‘forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us.’ Actually, the world will not know that we are His disciples because there will be no love for one another. How can love reign supreme where forgiveness does not? Forgiveness is our command, judgement has never been.

 

In actual fact I believe that what we see today is that man has become big and God small. There is actually a higher throne than the throne of God and that is the one I sit in. I am holy, I am all righteous, I am sovereign, I am untouchable, I am sinless and I am omniscient,  because all these attributes alone can qualify me not to forgive, because then only will it be true that I can say that I will not forgive trespasses against me, because I have never trespassed against any other. Yet, He of whom Peter says that ‘no deceit ever came from His mouth’ forgave. We must remember that forgiveness does not make the other person right, but it makes me free. I love the way Corrie Ten Boom put it after facing so much persecution. She said: “Forgiveness is not an emotion...  Forgiveness is an act of will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”

Forgiveness is not the great Christian choice, and forgiveness also does not only kick in based on a certain rating of sin against me. The issue is not the sin against me; the issue is my heart towards the sinner. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive. We all know the answer of Jesus so well. Jesus does not just leave Peter with the 70x7 deal, but he continuous with a parable of a man who was forgiven so much by the King. He was actually forgiven millions of Rand worth of debts. This same man then went and found a fellow servant who owed him app two months’ worth of wages. He went out sought this man, grabbed him and chocked him, and in spite of the man pleading for forgiveness he had no grace and had this man locked up in prison until he could repay.

You see the problem here was a lack of understanding of ‘self’. This man was willing to receive forgiveness, he actually had a great capacity for it, he possibly based on his own experience would council others to forgive, just realising how much the King forgave him. Sadly the words of the King came to him too late in Matthew 18:32-33 (ESV) “32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

Let’s follow the example of Him who loved His enemies, lived for His enemies and died for His enemies. He is the one who taught us in the context of interpersonal relationships that “48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

There is a sad ending for the unforgiving servant of Matthew 18 that we may not ignore as Christ fully applies it to us. Matthew 18:34-35 (ESV) says: “34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness is the well from which we draw the water to wash others' feet, so let’s draw and keep on drawing, for this is the example set to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.


The best way to end this is to encourage one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Listen to this amazing song about forgiveness!! Whatever it is you're going through, whoever it is you are trying to forgive, I can promise you that the best thing you can do is forgive them. Let go and let God handle it.