1) A modern-day problem: Philip Yancey, an award winning writer, wrote in OUR DAILY BREAD (October 9, 2008) that when he was wronged, he could contrive a hundred reasons against forgiveness. Reasons like: “He needs to learn a lesson.” “I will let her stew for a while; this will do her good.” “It’s not up to me to make the first move.” When he finally softened to the point of granting forgiveness, it seems a leap from hard logic to mushy sentiment.
2) An ancient-day problem: Mr. Yancey was not the first man to feel hard to forgive. Some 2,000 years ago, Peter, a devout follower of Jesus found it hard to always forgiving too. He came and asked the Lord how many times should he keep forgiving his offenders? Is 7 times good enough? Jesus answered his question by saying, “Not seven times but seventy seven times.” I am sure Peter and many of us will wonder how can anyone forgives someone 70 seven times? Or how can anyone who keeps offending others again and again and again and still deserves forgiveness?
FORGIVENESS IN THE BIBLE:
1) Esau forgave Jacob: The tricky Jacob stole the birth right of the first born from his older brother Esau with a bow of red bean soup (Genesis 25:27-34) planted the seed of sibling rivalry. Then aided by a mother who played favoritism to further steal the blessing of the first born right (Genesis 27:1-29) that triggered the anger of Esau who vowed to kill his younger brother after the death of their father. (27:41) Many years later when Jacob was on his way home from Haram with his family and all the possession, he was so afraid to face Esau who was coming to meet him with 400 fighters. But Esau embraced Jacob, cried on his shoulders, forgave him and offered to protect him with his army. (33:1-12)
2) Joseph forgave his brothers: Another sibling rivalry resulted in the plot of murder and eventual selling of the younger brother Joseph to Egypt, the sons of Jacob were guilty of cheating their brother and father. (Gen. 37:18-28) Many years later, the brothers were face to face with Joseph who had been ascended to rule over the country. Joseph recognized his brothers, forgave them of their evil intent and comforted them with words of kindness. (45:3-8)
3) Father forgave his son: The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-24 was one of the best illustrations used by Jesus and many Bible teachers to present the gospel of love and forgiveness. Even though the Prodigal Son did all the evil things, he was met with his father’s unconditional love and forgiveness when he returned to his father and repented of his sins. Jesus used this story to illustrate the love of God and His mercy on sinners who repented of their sins. Love and forgiveness are both sides of the same coin. When there is love, there is forgiveness.
4) Jesus forgave the world: The pinnacle of all forgiveness is the cry of Jesus to his Father God to forgive those who sent him to the cross when he asked, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) This is the example of complete forgiveness for the sins of the world that sent him to the cross and those who put him to death on the cross. Shedding the blood of an innocent man is guilty of death punishment. (Deuteronomy 19:11-13) But Jesus prayed for those who shed his blood and asked God to forgive them.
1) We all are forgiven: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Our God is a forgiving God and He will always forgive our sins when we confess and repent. It is God’s forgiveness we are cleansed of all our sins. No one may do enough good to be saved. We are saved because God is forgiving.
2) We are commanded to: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35) Jesus was very serious about our forgiving of others. He insisted that God would not forgive us if we do not forgive our brothers. This is more than a command. It is a warning of consequence if we don’t. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21)When we forgive each other, we not just obey His command but show our love to him.
3) It restores relationships: “And Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept over them. After that his brothers talked with him.” (Genesis 45:15)After Joseph forgave his brothers, the relationship broken years ago was restored and there wasn’t any fear or uncertainty between brothers, so they dare to talk to Joseph and the family was back together again. Nothing is better to restore a broken relationship than forgiveness, be it in a family, at work or in church.
4) It’s good for your health: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)Nothing crushes our hearts worse than a bitter and unforgiving spirit. Nothing heals a crushed heart better than forgiving each other. Holding bitterness in unforgiving spirit can do a lot of harm to our health condition physically, mentally and spiritually. Forgiving is the best medicine to promote good health.
LESSONS FROM THE PARABLE: (Matthew 18:21-35) Jesus was trying to teach his listeners many basic but important lessons of life.
1) We all are in debts: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) All of us, regardless of how your think of yourself, are in debt or come short of our duties to God and to men. We either did things we shouldn’t do or we didn’t do enough what we should do. Either way, we are in debt to God and to others. This is a very important perspective of life. We didn’t bring anything into this world when we first came here. All we have and who we are is because of the love and good will of God and many people and we always need to be thankful of.
2) We know the difference: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)Often times, we exaggerate and overblown the offences others may have done on us and make them look like mountains while in fact they are just like little sand piles. We need to realize the huge size and the numerous failures, offences, omissions and negligence we have done on others are many times bigger and much worse than what they have done on us. Just think of how often we have failed God, our family, friends, colleagues and people in God’s church then we know how much we need to ask for their forgiveness than they need to ask for ours.
3) Forgive and be forgiven: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heaven Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14)Asking for forgiveness from God and men for our offences and short comings will be effective only if we are willingness to forgive those who have offended us. To forgive and be forgiven are both sides of the same coin. No coin is worth anything if there is only one side. In order for us to be forgiven by God, we need to forgive those who have offended us.
4) Forgiveness unlimited: “Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:22)If God puts a limit on how many times He will forgive us, none of us will be able to go to heaven. It is His unlimited love and mercy that lays the foundation of our salvation. The Lord asks that we need to offer our offenders the same unlimited forgiveness as God has offered us.
1) Let’s rid off the roots: Before we ask people to forgive us, why don’t we ask ourselves: stop or avoid offending people. Yes, we are not angels and will inevitably offend each other, but to put a break on our actions that could offend others is a good start: prevention goes before correction. We need to learn how to be kind, patient, loving and considerate before we act or say anything that may hurt others.
2) Let’s loosen the hold: Loosening your grip of grief on the offender as well as yourself by forgiving those who have hurt you will heal your grief on the inside and bridge across you and your offender. It helps to stop the cycle of blame and pain that may further deepen the injury because of the offense in the past. We live for the purpose of peace and reconciliation, not for grudges and hatred. Forgiveness is the shortest cut to achieve that goal.
3) Let’s ask for forgiveness: The forgiveness we all must ask for is that of God to forgive our sins. With our sincere repentance, God has promised to forgive our sins and restore our relationship with him to become His children. This step will bring us into His family and to receive eternal life. It puts us in His hand of direction and blessing.