I hope that this finds all of you in good health and high spirits, Reader. God is awesome!
Today’s subject is: forgiveness.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Okay, so Jesus is saying that forgiveness should be unlimited, just as God is willing to forgive each of us without limit. In the parable that follows this statement (Mt. 18:22-35), Jesus highlights the injustices of our failures to forgive others, when we—who for the sake of sin cannot enter God’s Presence! —have been forgiven on account of the death of His own Son.
In this verse, Jesus is talking about forgiving our brother—not forgiving sin. That’s God’s job! All sin must be paid for, but we are not the ones to exact payment. We live our spiritual lives in the knowledge that God has forgiven our sins through the sacrifice of His Son, Christ Jesus. In fact, not just forgiven—we are justified in the eyes of God because the blood of Christ covers our sins. God can’t see them. It’s like the sin never even happened.
Whoa. Heady stuff. So, um… how does it apply to us?
Turn it around; your friend lies to you, and you get hoodwinked. You really, really want to see justice done. In fact, “tormented forever, time without end,” seems appropriate. What to do, what to do… EUREKA!
Just put your child up to be spit on, beaten, humiliated, slandered, scourged and then hung, naked, with his name prominently displayed next to the main highway leading into town and left to die a slow, agonizing death! It’s all good!
Makes sense, right? No sane person even considers that this is reasonable. But it was necessary in order for us to be forgiven and have a relationship with God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed…
Christian behavior is often not so much a stumbling stone to the unbeliever, as it is to the “saved”. When someone wrongs you, how do you react? Not what do you do; the question is: what is your heart’s reaction? Because this—more than your outward response—indicates the type of person you are. When someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s easy enough to smile and say, “Well, he’s clearly in a hurry. Let’s say a quick prayer for his safety,” when your heart’s reaction at that moment was, “This is why they should let us mount grenade launchers on the hood of the car!”
Murderer. (Hey, I didn’t say it. Jesus did. Sermon on the Mount. Check it.)
There is another aspect to this, as well: in the parable, Jesus ends by saying, “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall my Heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” (Mt. 18:34, 35)
There’s no way for us to control that knee-jerk internal response. It isn’t in the nature of men to do that. We aren’t longsuffering.
God is. (Right now, stop reading this, pick up your Bible and read Romans 6; just read the whole chapter, it will do you good).
This brings us to the point. (I know; brevity is not my spiritual gift. You can see why I love Paul.) If what we experience inside manifests itself by our outward actions, what am I? Does this mean that if my first reaction is anger, all is lost? May it never be! (Love Paul.) It just reinforces that I’m human. By yielding to the Spirit, each time I’m faced with this situation it will be easier for me to surrender to the Spirit’s guidance. Eventually, I begin to have love and forgiveness toward others in my heart.
I’m Christ’s example to a wicked, degenerate world. God forgave me. Can I forgive others?
Not always. Lord knows, I’m trying, but there are a lot of people to whom I really want to see justice done. That isn’t my place: “VENGEANCE IS MINE; I WILL REPAY,” saith the LORD. There’s also the small matter of not being a stumbling stone to others (setting the right example through actions and words), and it’s “a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
I’d just as soon avoid being on the receiving end of that whole “vengeance” thing, thank you very much. So…