Is Forgiveness An Option?

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6: 14-15

I was confronted with this question yesterday as I listened to a visiting speaker at our Family Bible Hour.  It really hit home just how black and white the scriptures can be sometimes. When others sin against me, whether intentionally or unknowingly, how am I to respond? My natural tendency is to want to get back. I want to see that other person punished for what they have done. Surely there needs to be some kind of torture inflicted so that they pay for their crimes. Let’s not forget that the Bible does say that I don’t need to forgive someone unless they repent and ask for it right? Well, wrong.

The Bible is very clear on this and the Lord doesn’t make any apologies for it. Paul in Ephesians 4:32 says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  You mean I am to forgive my brother and sister the same way God has forgiven me? That does put things into perspective. The Lord Himself says, “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” Notice that small but powerful word that He uses – must. That doesn’t really leave any room for discussion does it?

Not only is forgiveness not an option, we are also commanded to forgive completely.  This is where so many of us fail. We say the words, “I forgive you” but we don’t really mean it in our hearts. We don’t let go of the offense and we hold on to it for safe keeping. After all it’s very possible that it will happen again and when it does we need to be ready to bring it all back up again and use it as a weapon against the offender.  The only problem with that thinking is that it’s completely sinful.

Holding on to past offenses goes directly against the very essence of the cross. It is the exact opposite of forgiving as Christ forgave us. It’s also the enemy of true Biblical fellowship. But wait Lord, you don’t know how badly that person has hurt me!  You don’t know the mess they have caused in my life! You don’t know the pain and suffering I have gone through!  How can you possibly expect me to forgive AND forget?  Surely you don’t mean erasing the offense from my memory and treating that person as if they had never hurt me.  That is exactly what forgiveness means.  Now I understand that as humans we can’t just erase the memory but we can choose not to bring it back up again. We can choose to keep it in the past and never speak of it or allow past emotions to resurface.

The Lord does choose to remember our sins no more and He never holds them against us. Read these verses about how the Lord has forgiven us…

Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Micah 7:19 “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

The Lord has suffered infinitely more than we ever will.  No matter how great the sin against us feels, the Saviour has endured so much worse. Go back to the cross. See the agony of Calvary. He endured the punishment not for our sins only but for the sins committed against us.  He has forgiven us far more than we could ever forgive anyone else. In light of the cross our suffering is incomparable.

Brother or sister, are you holding onto bitterness against a fellow believer? Forgive! Forget! It’s not a choice. It’s not an option. Restore the fellowship that you have withheld. Don’t put it off, do it now.

 

2 comments

  1. Wow… thank you Crawford for this very challenging post. As I examine my own heart, I find a double standard. I expect others to forgive (or at least gloss over) the wrong things that I have done… yet I fail to extend the same graciousness towards others when they are in the wrong. Lord forgive me!

    Thanks again for the challenge.

  2. I read this really excellent comment on forgiveness on a blog today…

    “Also, healing and forgiveness are inseparable. You will not have one without the other. Distancing yourself from that person, never speaking their name again, ignoring the repercussions from their actions will not lessen your anger. Only forgiveness will. And often times, forgiveness is the first step in healing. Period. No short cuts around it. But I would like to state emphatically here that forgiveness is not a feeling any more than love is. Forgiveness is an action verb. It is something we do. We release someone, or even ourselves, from the punishment we think they deserve. After time, your feelings will probably start to align with your choice to forgive, but not always. There are still names I hear or moments I remember that constrict my gut, but I have a choice in the moment. I can feed the anger or I can choose in that nanosecond to release them – to forgive. And in the moment I choose forgiveness, I choose healing and I take a small step forward.”

    http://momto5.com/2012/04/her-story-blogger-debra-brinckley/