by: Bruce Cook

I had finished writing my article about sin, and was sitting in our television room one evening wondering what the Lord would have me study and write about next. I asked Laura Lee if there was any topic that she would like for me to write about. She was quiet for a moment or two and all of a sudden she said, forgiveness. As I started to research and study I felt sure that this was the Lords will. I did my research by reading sermons on the internet by Chaplain Richard R. Crocker, Dr. Ronald W. Scales, David J. Robb and Sarah Dylan Breur and studying from many books, my bible and my own input.

The Bible tells us to believe in the forgiveness of sin. But for people of today forgiveness seems to be a hard thing to understand, it’s hard to give, and to some even harder to receive. It’s a subject we may not think much about or it doesn’t even come up. I went to the Funk and Wagnall Dictionary to see what it said about forgiveness, and found the following definitions:

1.To grant pardon for, or remission of {something}.
2.To cease to blame or feel resentment against.
3.To remit as a debt.
4.To show forgiveness, grant pardon, a disposition to forgive.

Websters definition was:
To pardon, as to forgive an enemy: to cease to feel resentment for, as to forgive an offense. Individuals forgive each other personal offenses; we pardon offense against law and morals.

Forgiveness has to do with real loss, real harm or real pain that is either suffered or inflicted by an act of carelessness or evil or maliciousness. And it has to do with a failure to do what we should have done, or doing what we should not have done. This is when we require forgiveness.

If we are to really understand forgiveness we must believe in sin. Sin is real and is a brokeness that cannot be healed. It is being jealous of a person and saying things that are not true disregarding our neighbors in need and not paying attention to them. Going along with evil and not speaking up at what we know is wrong, committing acts of violence and disregard directly or indirectly to people we consider less deserving or less precious than ourselves. Taking privileges that we have not earned. Despising the poor and rationalize the suffering of the weak, and making fun of others {to protect ourselves.}

Paul warns us in Eph. 4:31 and Heb. 12:15 that forgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others. It’s sorry to think of all the days, months or even years that are endured by anger and bitterness that are directed at someone. As someone has said, forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then discovering the prisoner was you. You must understand: Forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling, but an act of the will. Neil Anderson has written, “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving, you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made. “ We allow God to bring the hurt up from our past, for if your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete. We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness. Forgiveness says, “It was wrong, it mattered and I release you.

In Mathew 18:21-22 Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times.

C.S. Lewis wrote that last week in prayer, I discovered, or at least I think I did, that I suddenly was able to forgive someone that I had been trying to forgive for over thirty years.

We long for forgiveness, to be able to forgive and to be forgiven. If that is so, then why is it so hard to forgive? It wasn’t any easier for the first followers of Jesus. Not even for the apostles. It is a mistake if you and I try to understand forgiveness in a clinical way. If you and I try to understand grace, which is the heart of forgiveness, by dissecting the law, we are going to miss it. Jesus explains the grace of forgiveness to the apostles, and to you and me, by telling the parable about a king and his servant. The king has loaned his servants money, and now he’s decided to call in the loan. It’s pay back time. Read about it in Mathew 18: 21-35.

Friends you and I are going to get jerked around in our lives many times, by many people who are going to do us wrong. Some of them are going to come up to us and ask us to forgive them: and some of them are going to be pretty awful people who have done some pretty awful things to us. Most of them do not deserve to be forgiven. So as Christians we are always confronted with the choice. Am I going to seize the pain? Am I going to seize on the pride, and withhold forgiveness? Jesus says if we don’t forgive, we are going to wind up in prison, a prison of anger, hatred, depression and guilt that we build for ourselves.

God really does have this obsession thing about forgiveness. So much so that he mandates it and what Christ orders, the Holy Spirit empowers. We can’t make the mistake of looking at the person as who wronged us, or what they have done to us. The way we are to relate to those who have wronged us, is that we are to act like God toward them. We are to forgive them. Not because of who they are or what they have done, but because of who God is, and what God has graciously done. It’s all about grace, I won’t give them what they deserve, I will forgive them. The refusal to forgive locks us in the past, forgiveness is an orientation to the future.

We must be very careful in our everyday lives how we conduct our talk and actions at home, work, church or in public. Sometimes we hurt people and we don’t even realize it, or we think that we are making a right decision but we really aren’t. There are times I can say something and when it comes out its not taken the way that I meant or was thinking for it to be. As a result I hurt someone. In the church when we hurt someone they just don’t come back and we lose them, sometimes never knowing why. Every day I pray and thank Jesus for dying on that cross for my sins, and I ask Him for forgiveness of any sins that I may have unknowingly committed.

In Luke chapter 11 it says that one day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. He said to them when you pray, say this: And he gave them the Lords Prayer.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, Jesus made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. In the Lords Prayer we pray “forgive us our debts.” Instead of saying debts, many use the word transgressions or sins, but the word debt has vivid meaning for most of us. Debts can be a terrible burden. To know that all our debts are paid in full is a glorious experience.

God has forgiven our sins: We must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven. Think of some people who have wronged you. Have you forgiven them? How will God deal with you if he treats you as you treat others?

In Acts 7:59-60 it tells us that while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell on his knees and cried out, Lord do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he fell asleep. This again was real forgiveness. And Saul was there giving approval to his death.

A long time ago I was the Supervisor of a rather large dept. And I say that because I had two departments for quite a while, and sometimes in that capacity you are required to make decisions based on company policy, work rules and the contract between the company and the union. I had vowed from day one that I would always try to be fair and to treat everyone the same. I had been a union employee for quite a number of years myself. I had a man working for me who I will call Tim just to use a name. He was a very good worker and always friendly with me, and one day he wanted something that I thought I could do for him, but I had to ask management about it. Management turned it down. I had to go back and tell him the decision. He became very upset and angry. He began to say things about me that others would tell me about. And eventually he transferred from my department, but took his anger with him. Even though he continued to talk about me to other plant employees, I still would speak to him and pray for him. One day I was busy and one of my workers came to me and said Tim wants to see you when you get a chance. I finished what I was doing and I went to his department looking for him. He was in a small room working at his job. I said Tim did you want to see me? He said yes. Bruce I was saved and gave my heart to the Lord at church the other night. I have said untrue things about you that I know were wrong. So I’m asking if you will forgive me? I said Tim I want you to know that it’s as if it never happened. Can you imagine how free those four words, “will you forgive me” made us both feel? But even better than that he had been saved, and I hope to see him in heaven.

There was another fellow several years ago I worked with in an office. He was a young and intelligent young man. He was or had been involved in a business with his family. And a disagreement come up over the business and he become very critical of his father. His anger kept growing day by day and it was consuming him as well as his immediate family. He would talk to me about it more and more. He would also get more angered as he talked. One day I stopped him and said, tell me something, your father is up in years, what if your telephone would ring right now, and you were told that your father had just passed away. How would you feel? How would that affect the rest of your life? Have you tried talking with him about how you feel? The next day when he came to work he said he had called his father last night. I asked how it went. He said “my family and I are going for a visit this weekend”. End result, hurts were mended.

To really forgive we must accept six facts – not just in our minds but in our hearts.

1.God wants to forgive us. He loves us and understands us. First John 1:9 says that “If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins.

2.Forgiveness means that we are again on good terms with God. It doesn’t take away the memory of our wrongs. We shall never forget them. The pain and sorrow of our failures will always remain with us. Neither does forgiveness take away all the consequences of our sins. Some of our sins we will pay for until we die. But forgiveness does mean that a right relationship with God is restored.

3.God does not expect us to rid ourselves of our sins. God is not some tyrant who takes delight in making us feel condemned and who wants to whip us. God is not like that, He says, ”I know what is troubling you and I don’t expect you to conquer all the evil thoughts and desires in your heart. But come, and let me help you and together we will find the right way. I will walk with you to guide, strengthen and help you find joy and satisfaction”.

4.When we have been forgiven, we can go on. God expects that. God is a father who settles things. Forgiveness means we have been set free to go on living and we are expected to go on. To face it, settle it, to go on is the way to deal with sin before God.

5.Forgiveness means that we surrender that wrong and that we surrender to God. We do wrong things because we enjoy them, or because we profit by them. As long as the joy we receive from wrong is greater than the joy of a right relationship with God we will keep on. But when we truly decide that we want God more than that wrong then we are willing to give it up. Then God will show you what the right thing is. “God gives insight to those who trust him”.

6.If we do not feel forgiven, it is likely because of our own pride. It is easy to tell ourselves, I’m not such a bad fellow, I really don’t need help, look at all of the good things I’ve done. Then we remind ourselves of the mean things other people do that we haven’t done. We decide that we don’t need God’s forgiveness. But we know that we are guilty and that we cannot save ourselves. It takes a strong man to get on his knees before God.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian said with a merry heart, “He has given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death”.

Forgiveness is a miracle, which God performs. I do not explain it. I simply say, “In my hand no price I bring: Simply to thy cross I cling”.

In Luke chapter 23, as they were preparing to crucify him, Jesus said, “father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And just eight verses later Jesus did another act of forgiveness when the criminal asked Jesus to remember him when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him; “ I tell you the truth, today, you, will be with me in paradise”. This was real forgiveness.

The believer who belongs to this age is exhorted to be kind to believers and unbelievers, tender hearted and forgiving to one another. “As Christ also has forgiven you” Eph.4:32, the basis of the plea for such forgiveness is that one has been himself so graciously forgiven.

So, do you forgive others, have you asked the Lord for forgiveness of your sins? Have you asked for forgiveness of hurts to others? And finally where will you spend eternity?

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