Skip to comments.As We Forgive Others
Posted on 08/29/2005 12:29:30 PM PDT by sionnsar
When we ask God for forgiveness we are asking for the grace to forgive others who have hurt us: "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us." Jesus underlined the importance of this petition by expanding on it: "if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14,15)
Jesus is saying that there is the closest possible connection between human and divine forgiveness, and that he who is unforgiving has cut himself off from the forgiveness of God. Since all of us are sinners, and all equally need to be forgiven, no person can claim to be righteous enough to deny forgiveness to others.
Jesus tells the story of a palace servant who was forgiven a large debt. His king forgave him a huge debt, a sum that would take fifteen years to pay off in labor. After he was forgiven this enormous debt, the servant met a man who owed him a small debt that could be worked off in a day. The king's servant demanded immediate payment. When the king heard, he summoned the servant, took back his forgiveness, and slapped him into prison to work off his original debt. (Matthew 18:23-35) The story is about God and us. If we act like the unforgiving servant, God will act like the king. Jesus said that it is the merciful who receive mercy (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13) There is no evading the principle that the condition of forgiveness is the forgiving spirit.
Once General Oglethorpe remarked to John Wesley: "I never forgive." Wesley answered: "Then I hope, sir, you never sin."
If we refuse to forgive, then we so harden ourselves that the forgiveness of God cannot reach us. We grow an impenetrable callus of the soul.
Jesus exemplified a forgiving attitude by his words on the Cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
But what about justice? What about holding people accountable for their actions? There is a tension between the judgment and the mercy of God.
In the psalms we see that David, as ruler, prays for justice and not mercy. He wants revenge against his enemies. "The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. Then men will say, 'Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.'" (Psalm 58:10,11)
Yet St. Paul, counseling Christians as citizens, quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21,22 when he writes: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary" 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21)
We are told to leave justice to the governing authorities, and to God. It is natural that we want mercy for ourselves and justice for others. It is hard for us to extend mercy to others, when we have been abused. We want the perpetrators to be brought to justice. They need to be brought to justice. We need law as well as grace. Just because God shows mercy, and offers forgiveness doesn't mean that the laws and commandments are unnecessary. Yet here we are told that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven.
This is easier said than done. How can you forgive someone who has intentionally hurt you or a loved one? How do you forgive a terrorist who has killed your son or daughter? How do you forgive a parent who has abused you? How do you forgive an employer or company that has let you go, without a word of thanks, after many faithful years of service? How do you forgive a child or a relative who has rejected you? How do you forgive someone who has cheated on you? How do you forgive God? How do you forgive.........? You fill in the blank as it applies to you.
Lewis B. Smedes has written one of the best books on this subject, entitled, "Forgive & Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve." If forgiveness is an issue for you then I recommend you get a copy and read it, for what I have to say will be too brief to do more than to get you started.
Smedes lists several things that forgiveness is not. Forgiving is not forgetting. We cannot forget painful memories, but we can lessen the pain through forgiveness. Excusing is not forgiving. We can excuse people only when they were not to blame. Excusing someone is to recognize and understand that he was not responsible for your pain. Forgiving is not the same as smothering conflict.
Avoidance of confrontation buries the pain, so that it comes out elsewhere. Accepting people is not forgiving them. We accept people because of the good people they are for us. We forgive people for the bad things they did to us. We accept people for the good they are, and we forgive people for the bad they did. Forgiveness is not tolerance. Bad behavior should not be tolerated, and should be penalized, but it also may be forgiven.
What is the process for forgiving someone? Smedes recommends the following process. First of all, get a new insight into the person who has hurt you. See them as weak, needy, and fallible human beings who need a great deal of help. Second, as you see the truth about your enemies, it gives you a new feeling toward them. Instead of concentrating on the wrong they did you, you see the person who lives beneath the cloak of the wrongdoing. Forgiving begins with a new vision and a new feeling.
"The Bible talks the same way when it describes how God forgives. In the ancient drama of atonement, God took a bundle of human sins off a man's back and tied it to a goat. He gave the goat a kick in the rear and sent it off, sin and all - a scapegoat - to a 'solitary land,' leaving the sinner free of his burden. Or, as the poet of the Psalms put it, he wipes our sin away, as a mother washes grime from a child's dirty face; he removed it from us as the East is removed from the West, and 'ne'er the twain shall meet.'
A scapegoat? A washed face? It is poetic language for what God does within his own mind. He changes his memory; what we once did is irrelevant to how he feels about what we are.
It is like that when we first forgive someone. When you forgive you must often be content with the editing of your own memory. It is the editing of your own memory that is your salvation. If you cannot free people from their wrongs and see them as the needy people they are, you enslave yourself to your own painful past, and by fastening yourself to the past, you let your hate become your future. You can reverse your future only by releasing other people from their pasts.
You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. Forgiveness is love's antidote for hate, beginning with passive hate, the loss of energy to wish people well. So, when we feel the slightest urge to wish that life would go well for them, we have begun to forgive; we have started to release those who hurt us, from the blight of the harm they did to us." (Smede, 46,47)
After Corrie ten Boom was released from a German concentration camp she traveled the world preaching the victory of the love of Jesus, and the gospel of forgiveness. In forgiving, she believed that she had discovered the only power that could heal the history of hurt and hate for the people of Europe. In Munich, one Sunday, she preached forgiving, preaching it to all those German people who were so eager to be forgiven.
After the service was over, a man walked over to her. He reached out his hand to her, expecting her to take it. "Ja, Fraulein Ten Boom, I am so glad that Jesus forgives us of all our sin, just as you say."
Corrie remembered his face as one of her former camp guards. She remembered how she was forced to take showers, with other women prisoners, while this beast looked on, a leering, mocking, 'superman,' guarding helpless, naked women. As Corrie recalled, he put his hand close to her. But her own hand froze at her side.
She could not forgive. She was stunned and terrified by her own weakness. What could she do, she who had been so sure that she had overcome the deep hurt and the desperate hate and had arrived at forgiving? What could she do now that she was confronted by a man she could not forgive?
She prayed. 'Jesus, I can't forgive this man. Forgive me.' At once, in some wonderful way that she was not prepared for, she felt forgiven: forgiven for not forgiving.
At that moment - in the power of the fundamental feeling - her hand went up, took the hand of her enemy, and released him. In her heart she freed him from her terrible past, and she freed herself from hers.
"The linkage between feeling forgiven and the power to forgive is the key to everything else."
The tension between justice and mercy, the judgment and the forgiveness of God, is displayed in the Cross. The sacrifice of Jesus, representing all the sinful human race, the innocent for the guilty, pays the penalty for all our sins, past, present and future.
It is the judgment of God for the salvation of the world. On the Cross the justice of God is demonstrated within the context of his mercy, for it is God as Man who takes our place, so that we might be forgiven. "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:19,21)
The goal of God in Christ is reconciliation. The means is forgiveness through the Cross. He wants all of us who are alienated from him and one another through our sins, to be reconciled and in fellowship with one another.
He has reached out in Jesus to bear all the pain, the hurt, the cruelty, and injustice of the world, so that might be forgiven. When the truth of that forgiveness reaches our hearts, we find ourselves gaining the strength and compassion to reach out to others in forgiveness. In that way we become Christ ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
The world is full of hate and unforgiveness, where people are seeking revenge and recompense, for age-old crimes, prejudices, slights, and perceived injustices. Forgiveness is the only way to heal it, and to end the strife. Jesus on the Cross makes forgiveness possible.
Amelia Plantation Chapel
Amelia Island, Florida
None of this list there.
God only forgives those that ask for His forgiveness. He certainly does not force His mercy on wrongdoers. Are we to do more than that? This is something that has always puzzled me. It reminds me of those who try to be more christian than Christ.
Where did this come from? Definitely not from the Bible. I am amazed that an article that talks of so much Christian forgiveness does not include the proper process for forgiving someone.
So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." Luke 17:3-4
First we must rebuke the one who has harmed us and second, after they repent, then we forgive them.
If we forgive without rebuking or repentance we encourage the behavior that will destroy our brother.
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