In Part One, we looked at the reasons why every believer must come face to face with the difficult issue of forgiveness—and how we can come to forgive, even when we have been greatly wronged. We saw that God compels us to forgive because, first, He has forgiven us, and secondly, if we are to have His nature and be conformed to His image, we must extend mercy to others the same way He extends it to us every day.
God didn’t just forgive us once, and that was it for all time. No, He forgives us every day, for each day we have sinned and need forgiveness. Remember, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies [and that includes His forgiveness] never come to an end. They are new every morning” Lamentations 3:22-23. So we must consistently and continually forgive.
In Part One we also saw how we can forgive—a description of how we can do it. We saw the grace factor, the guilt factor, and the grief factor. There is also…
The Gain Factor
Our Lord talks about a worshipper who brings a gift to the temple, but then remembers there’s a problem between him and someone else. Jesus tells him, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:24.
Jesus again says in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” The first of these Scriptures says, “be reconciled to your brother.” The second says, “Thou hast gained thy brother. A brother is a precious thing to have and a terrible thing to lose. When you forgive, you heal a broken relationship and you gain back a brother.
Think about what happens when people who represent the name of Jesus live with broken relationships. Unforgiveness brings consequences—consequences that damage the name of Christ. Broken fellowship—
- disgraces Almighty God. When your children fuss and fight, it disgraces you as their parent, does it not? If bitterness, unforgiveness and grudges reside in your heart and the hearts of other believers, this brings disgrace upon the Lord.
- discourages the saints. Have you ever been in a church where there is a church fuss or fight? The devil had rather start a falling out within a church than sell a barrel of whiskey any day.
- delights the devil. He wins a victory when you fail to forgive.
- drives away the lost. Possibly the church’s greatest evangelistic outreach is the love we have one for another. One of the earliest church fathers, Tertullian, once said that because of the love for one another among believers, he imagined the pagan world was looking on them, saying, “Behold, how these Christians love each other!”
Believers’ love for one another is one of our strongest witnesses. People can sense the fellowship, the love of God in a church. But an unforgiving spirit, rancor, and hostility drive away the lost.
The Costly Requirements for Forgiveness
Remember, there are no bargain pardons. Jesus is the model, and He paid the price: redemption through His blood. As His follower, you will experience a little personal Gethsemane and Calvary if you truly forgive someone who has deeply hurt you.
To forgive as Jesus forgave, it must be offered:
His forgiveness is free, spontaneous, and quick. No seeking after revenge. None of this, “I’m going to teach them how much I’ve been hurt. I’ll make them suffer. After I’ve gotten my pound of flesh, then perhaps I’ll forgive.” Forgive freely. You should be so anxious to forgive, you chase them down and catch them in order to forgive them.
Isn’t that what God has done for us? “We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19 says. When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God didn’t sit in Heaven saying, “Well, I’m going to wait, and if perhaps they come to Me, I might be persuaded to forgive them.” God came to the Garden and said, “Adam, Adam, where are you?” It wasn’t the voice of a detective, but a brokenhearted God, seeking the one who had sinned against Him, ready to forgive. Remember Matthew 18:15, “Go tell him secretly, [privately, lovingly] and if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
Peter asked the Lord, “If a person sins against me, how many times shall I forgive him? Seven times?” (a perfect number). Jesus said, “No, seventy times seven.” Four hundred and ninety. By inference, He didn’t mean stop at 491. Get the mathematics out of it. Don’t keep score. Forgiveness has no limit. Make sure you say, “I forgive you.”
By the way, when you must ask someone to forgive you, be sure you don’t say, “If I hurt your feelings, I’m sorry. I want to apologize.” No. Not “IF” I’ve hurt you, but say, “Please forgive me.”
“Apologize” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “to make a defense.” What many of us are really doing is just defending ourselves. If you’ve wronged someone, say, “Would you forgive me? I was wrong.” And if someone has wronged you, don’t say, “Oh, forget it. Never mind.” Say, “I forgive you.” Do it fully. Bury it in the grave of God’s forgetfulness.
Don’t bring it up again. Do it finally, once for all. “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and I will not remember thy sins” Isaiah 43:25.
Yes, God is omniscient—intellectually, He cannot “forget.” He doesn’t lose His memory. Rather, “I will remember them no more,” means “I will not bring them up. I will not use them against you. If I remember them, I remember them as forgiven sins, not with that spirit of resentment that human beings tend to have. The sin is buried.” Don’t be one who says, “I’m going to get rid of it, but I’m going to remember it.” No, you forgive finally.
It’s not natural to forgive. Our spirits demand justice. It has well been said, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” You need Jesus in order to be forgiven, and, friend, you need Jesus in order to forgive. Jesus, the same one who forgave us, put His spirit in us, and enables us to have the force and the power to forgive.
But what about someone who continues doing the same hurtful thing? Who hasn’t repented? Who continues to hurt me, to withhold what they owe? Someone who continues to abuse or lie, cheat or slander? Can I forgive them? It’s a hard question, because even God doesn’t forgive without repentance, does He? What if that person hasn’t repented? Is it up to you, then, to “get ‘em?”
No, God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” If you cannot forgive them because of their continuing practice, you can have the spirit of forgiveness. On the cross as they were nailing Him up, Jesus is praying for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I once had someone who horribly sinned against me and those I love. I made up my mind I was not going to carry a load of resentment. One morning about 2:00 a.m., I wrote out a full, complete forgiveness, not only forgiving, but receiving back that individual. Before God, I signed my name to it, uploaded that forgiveness to Heaven, and put the letter in the drawer. Anytime that individual wants to download it, it’s there, already on file. It’s already given! It’s done as far as I’m concerned. I don’t bear that burden. Whether it’s ever received or not, it’s offered.
Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross? Not everybody is saved, but He bought salvation for us all. All we have to do is receive it.
Corrie Ten Boom, a godly young woman in World War II, was taken prisoner by the Nazis for hiding Jews and put into Ravensbrook concentration camp, along with her beloved sister Betsie, who died there due to the unimaginable brutality. On one occasion, a prison guard forced Corrie to strip naked and take a shower while he watched her with his leering eyes, humiliating this righteous and godly girl. Later, after Corrie got out of prison, she traveled the world serving God, bringing the message of forgiveness. One night a man walked up, put out his hand and said, “Corrie, isn’t the grace of God something wonderful? Isn’t forgiveness wonderful?” When she looked into that man’s face, she froze! It was that prison guard, the one who had humiliated her. Now he saunters up and says, “Isn’t forgiveness wonderful?” She said, “I wanted to put out my hand because I had spoken on forgiveness, but I couldn’t. And I prayed, ‘O, Jesus, help me to forgive.’ I put my hand in his hand, and the grace and love of God began to flow through my body.” Don’t insult the grace of God by saying, “I can’t forgive.” You can.
When you begin to practice a lifestyle of forgiveness, 3 things will happen.
- Personal emancipation. You’re set free.
- Reconciliation You’re going to gain your brother.
- Spiritual jubilation. There’s going to be revival. Real revival is not just getting the roof off and getting right with God, but getting the walls down and getting right with one another.
Is there someone who has wronged you? Bury it in the grave of God’s forgetfulness and forgive.
Friend, don’t carry around that load, even if you have to put forgiveness in escrow, waiting for that individual to come along and write the check of repentance and faith. You have uploaded it and they can download it. But don’t go around in the prison of guilt, swallowing the poison of bitterness.