More on Forgiveness
The Bible treats the subject of forgiveness very seriously. And many Christians find forgiving others hard to do. Why does God ask us to forgive sin it sometimes is so difficult?
Christianity is basically a message of forgiveness. Acts 10:43 says that “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.” So because we have been forgiven, God asks us to forgive others. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13 As the bride of Christ we are to be like Him, and Jesus came “to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” Mk. 10:45.
Since we have been forgiven and brought into God’s family, we are to take on the ways of that family. Luke 6:36 tells us “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Matthew 18 is the parable of the unmerciful servant, who after being forgiven a great debt then went out and refused to forgive a small debt owed to him. Because we have been made so rich and free through God’s grace we should be ready to pass that grace on. The hurts, insults, and harms that we receive from the hands of others can be taken care of by our heavenly Father. –Romans 8:28
What God has done for us in Christ is to say through His forgiveness that we are valuable and important – even though we have sinned. He has taken us out of the kingdom of this world and placed us into the Kingdom of God. Our identity is in Him and no longer in ourselves. We have a Fortress to run to in time of trouble. God has given us the resources we need to forgive others.
But isn’t there a limit to this forgiveness you may be asking? When asked that question Jesus responded that we should forgive “seventy times seven” Mt. 18:22. God never stops forgiving us so we are asked to treat our brother the way God treats us. But if we just keep forgiving endlessly doesn’t that open us to being taken advantage of? That answer is probably yes. But being rich in Christ, we can never be bankrupted by others.
Do we just ignore wrongs done to us? Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Luke 17:3-4 says: “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.” And Gal. 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” The goal in all of this is to help your brother or sister to repent of their sin and restoring them to fellowship with you and with the church and with God.
We aren’t trying to show our brother that he is wrong and we are right. We aren’t trying to get back at him – but to win him back into Christian fellowship. Scripture tells us that “In as much as is in you, keep the peace.” We are to love our brother when he has different opinions that we have and when he does things differently than we would, We try to bend when he wants to go to one place and we want to go to the other. We forgive him when he annoys us with his noisy cell phone calls. And when he forgets to call us when he is late. Because of Christ we can tolerate annoyances and inconveniences. But we can’t tolerate real sin in the Body of Christ. We have to confront sin in order to keep the Church pure and loving and also to protect the witness of the Church to nonbelievers.
So we are told to forgive and not to judge. To keep the peace. But we are also told in Scripture to confront our brother or sister if they are sinning.. We are told in one scripture to forgive and then in another to confront. Aren’t these two commands opposite from one another? Actually they are similar because both are to be done out of love. God the loving Father wants all of His children to be one in love – to act like a family. And we need to ask Him to help us do our part.