The Reason We Forgive
God’s forgiveness is not merely an expression of His heart (although it is certainly that) but also a promise from His word. Our experience of God’s forgiveness is therefore directly tied to our willingness to take Him at His word.
The author of Hebrews explains that our assurance of forgiveness rests on nothing but the atoning blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). Furthermore, when we come to God in repentance, He promises to remember our sins no more (v 17). God has pledged Himself not to keep a record of our iniquities (Isaiah 43:25). In other words, if we try to go back to God with issues that He has already dealt with, we’ll find Him saying, in effect, My dear child, I have no recollection of what you’re talking about. I promised not to bring that up ever again—and so neither should you.
God’s example is meant to be the model for how we forgive others. Forgiving others is not about a feeling; it’s about a promise and obedience. When you or I forgive someone, we are essentially making a three-point pledge: first, that we will not bring the matter up with that individual again; second, that we will not bring it up with anyone else; and third, that we will not to bring it back up to ourselves. A genuine expression of forgiveness says, “I want to do for you as God in Christ has done for me.”
This does not mean forgiveness is merely in our minds and an act of the will only. We are clearly meant to forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35). It does mean, however, that our expressions of forgiveness are most genuine when they flow out of an awareness of and sense of gratitude for our own forgiveness from Christ, paired with obedience to God’s command to forgive.
Is there someone you need to forgive? You may not feel like extending forgiveness to another today—but that is not the issue. As a recipient of God’s forgiveness in Christ, you are called to forgive as He has forgiven you. That is not easy, but it is possible. God’s Spirit can enable you to make and keep your promise to do so. When you forgive by making that three-fold pledge in obedience to God’s command, He can and will make the feelings follow.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.7 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.8 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant9 fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,10 and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,11 until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
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