One of the greatest realities of the human experience is unfortunately that we will wrong one another…Every single one of us. It is true of us all and is unavoidable. If you are breathing air and reading this you have, at some point in your life, done something that was offensive or hurtful to another. No matter how hard you strive not to do this or to be a good person, you have undoubtedly failed; as have I. All of us are guilty. Sometimes we are even unaware of it when we do it. And not just unaware, but maybe even done without the intention to cause offense or hurt to another. But even though that may be the case, there are still those times when, yes, we do it intentionally…All of us. This is beyond factual and lives more in the realm of truth than of fact. Why? Because by nature we all have a side of us that is simply completely consumed with ourselves…with gratifying ourselves…Yes, even being totally absorbed with ourselves. And sometimes so much so that we get to the point where intentionally causing offense in another matters very little to us in the moment.
Yet even though that is true for all of us, it is equally true that we have all at some point in our lives been on the receiving end of such maliciousness from those around us or even those closest to us in our lives. And sometimes when people hurt us in such a way that we feel it in the core of our being and in the deepest place of our emotions the
last thing that we want to do is truly forgive them. Heck, some people don’t even want to say the words never mind truly extending forgiveness in the heart. In fact, because of our nature, these are often the moments the we feel most-inclined to have one of those moments where we are so absorbed with how we have been wounded or offended that to gratify ourselves do something vengeful in return is what seems to feel most natural in the moment. And far too often that is exactly what we do.
Sadly, I have seen this not just to be true amongst those outside of a profession in Jesus, but also amongst those claiming to be His followers. They harbor anger, bitterness, jealousy, rage, malice and all kinds of other things with a heart that screams to the other person, “I am going to choke the life out of you and demand you get paid back in full what you owe!”
First and foremost this is the opposite of the Christian faith and the opposite of how, through Christ’s finished work on the Cross, the heavenly Father shows and extends mercy onto us for the sins and crimes we commit against Him…including those against our fellow man (both the intentional and the unintentional). And in Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus addresses this very attitude in the parable of the unforgiving servant. The story that gives us a picture of God’s forgiveness and grace against Him and the insurmountable debt that we accumulate against Him in our lifetimes versus a picture of how little the offenses and debts our brothers and sisters have against us. God, by His grace and mercy, forgives us unlimitedly and unconditionally because the price has been paid through Christ. And Jesus basically gives us a picture of us being agents of the mercy and grace we have received and being willing to forgive our brothers and sisters in the same way and through the same Spirit as He does with us.
As the Lord does with us when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart and confess our sins as we fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith granting us forgiveness, we are to also extend that same grace and mercy onto our brothers and sisters who come to us in repentance and ask for forgiveness. And for those of us who are truly in Christ Jesus, this must be our first and greatest reason to be people of forgiveness. Simply put, we forgive “70 x 7 times” (unlimitedly and unconditionally) because we have that same forgiveness and grace bestowed upon us constantly and continuously.
But a secondary reality of being people of forgiveness is that it is actually something that actually frees us from the pain of the offense holding us prisoner and by offering true forgiveness we can truly begin to heal and move forward in our lives from even the deepest pains and offenses that are done against us. So despite that part of our nature that says, “Revenge or payback is going to satisfy the need to be freed from the pain and the hurt done against me…” in reality it is to truly forgive, and release the offense and the debts against you…and even wishing those who have committed the deepest offenses against you well, that one is truly freed. Yesterday, through an unfortunate situation I was so reminded of that Truth that it has driven me to write these words.
When we strive to live in this way, a way oh so counterintuitive in a sinful broken world, it is then that we will find ourselves being filled and growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control rather than those things that keep us captive as emotional prisoners making us into people of bitterness rather than people and agents of joy.
So let us who profess Christ walk as Jesus walked, and forgive as He forgives… First to honor Him as His followers, and secondly to live in the freedom that true forgiveness offers. Until next time…