“Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Before we can take forgiveness seriously, we have to grasp what forgiveness means …. Forgiveness is: “the decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when he or she injured you” …..
When you injure others, knowingly or unknowingly, you create an obligation. You take something from them: their time, money, pride, or dignity. And if you take something from your brother or sister, then you owe them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that nobody pays that price. It actually means that the one granting forgiveness pays.
If I choose to release someone through forgiveness, I pay the debt. In other words; I absorb it. I cover it. I forego what is rightfully due to me. I release the person from what he or she owes. I pay. Not unlike how, when God forgives, God pays. That’s the story of the gospel, isn’t it? I have a sin debt I can never pay, and Jesus paid it for me ….
This extravagant, divine forgiveness sets the stage for human forgiveness, but that doesn’t make it easy. Certainly not. Since the debt was unfair in the first place, we instinctively hesitate to pay it ourselves. But our reasons for not forgiving all turn out to be rationalizations. If we hold out for an apology, we are missing the point. An apology doesn’t pay the debt; only forgiveness can. In the same way, if you’re six months behind on your mortgage, a sincere “sorry” to your bank won’t cancel the debt or the added interest. The apology is irrelevant to the crisis of forgiveness. Forgiveness necessitates a decision point, a true crisis: Will you choose to release the person from the obligation?
For fallen creatures like us, unforgiveness feels like power. We feel entitled to hold tightly to our hurt and offenses with clenched fists. However, forgiveness surrenders the power to send any more “bills” to that person, to hold the debt over him. Forgiveness releases the person so he or she no longer owes you. That crisis to choose to forgive feels ugly and messy, but it’s worth it. By releasing someone else, we also release ourselves from the chains of self-destructive unforgiveness.
Why does unforgiveness feel like power? Perhaps because we feel justified. We believe we have a right to hold onto our hurt and make the other person suffer. Such as you saying, “I’ll cut me and watch you bleed” or you “drinking poison to watch them die”…. Pretty insane, but we never grasp that more than likely the other person is going along merrily not even concerned about whether they are forgiven or not …. Forgiveness isn’t for the other person– it is for YOU.
Read the parable following our opening scripture (vs. 23-35). The message is powerful in comparison with our Heavenly Father’s view towards forgiveness;
“O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? ….. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (vs. 32-35).
In like manner, Jesus taught us concerning forgiveness: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Why is is so hard to forgive? And if you may be thinking, “what if I cannot, or do not forgive, does this mean I am not saved?” I know I myself have battled with this one ….
Jesus says in (Matthew 5:7), “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” So receiving mercy comes to us through our being merciful. That is almost the same as our passage in (6:14-15).
We receive mercy at the judgment seat if trusting Christ’s mercy has made us merciful ….
James puts it this way: “For He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13).
Did you catch that? Judgment by God is without mercy to those who have shown no mercy, and mercy triumphs over judgment. That is, if we show mercy, our judgment will not be condemnation, it will be mercy ..
(Matthew 7:21-23) says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
So we see here that simply saying we are a Christian or calling Jesus our Lord doesn’t save anyone. We show His lordship of our lives by doing the will of His Father. Without this evidence in our lives, we hear the dreadeful words, “I never knew you” …..
How scary is that?
And then He goes on to say, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27).
So, in other words, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus is simply saying what He is saying everywhere else in these passages, and the way I would put it is like this: If the forgiveness that we received at the cost of the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is so ineffective in our hearts that we are bent on holding unforgiving grudges and bitterness against someone, my opinion is we are not saved. And why would I say that? Because we don’t cherish this forgiveness. He gave His life to save us and forgive us. How can we honestly do any less? God says, “Vengence is mine, I will repay.” Know today that He settles accounts and we don’t have to ….
In closing, I would ask, who are you “billing” today? What holds you back from forgiving that debt?
Let us pray ~
Father God, forgiveness feels so unfair. When people hurt me and sin against me, I want them to pay, and so I hold onto grudges and harbor unforgiveness in my heart. Yet, I desperately want You to forgive me. Just as I freely accept Your forgiveness, so I also need to freely give it and extend mercy. Please help me Father and show me those whom I still need to forgive, and strengthen me to forgive them. Thank You Jesus for Your sacrifice and lavish forgiveness. You paid the highest price to cancel a debt that I could never pay and by Your grace and the power of the Holy Ghost I ask You to guide me in all truth today. I thank You for Your Word. In Jesus precious name, Amen….