“…for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”
Forgiveness is the graduate school of spiritual growth! We can therefore be grateful that our Lord personally showed us how to do it. On the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The forgiveness He requested while painfully praying was actually being paid for- as He spoke! Yet, the forgiveness He died to give us has to be individually accepted by faith.
In the Old Testament, Joseph provided a wonderful example of forgiveness (See Genesis 45:4-7). He amazingly forgave his brothers who had tragically sold him into a lifetime of slavery in a foreign land. Their sincere repentance many years later and Joseph’s forgiving response became legendary!
In Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, he taught us by saying, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)
When a brother or sister repents of their sins, even when the same sin has often been committed – consider what the Lord taught us. He said, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) Notice in this passage that forgiveness follows sincere repentance. Ironically, however, the offended brother or sister can easily become an offender themself. This happens if they develop personal bitterness and an unforgiving spirit!
The sin of unforgiveness is equal to that of any other sin. Notice the undertone of the Lord’s instructions given in the verses shown above.
He wants us to forgive, regardless of the fact that a repentant offender has truly been at fault. Remember when He said, “…If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39) In heaven, there will be no need for confession, repentance, or personal forgiveness. Why? Simply because God’s kingdom is holy, and sin will no longer exist. However, here on earth the need for forgiveness remains very real!
Notice that the Bible teaches us to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Our Lord was not impractical – instead He was wonderfully sacrificial. He knew exactly what He was forgiving and why. Even more importantly, He comprehended the great cost of forgiveness and He willingly paid it! May your daily witness always include forgiveness every time repentance occurs. Remember that forgiveness is only a potential blessing until it is sincerely given.
In the Lord Jesus’ model prayer, He taught us to say, “Our Father… forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Matthew 6:12) It is only a matter of time until you will need the very same grace you are giving!
By Billie Hanks Jr.