By KrisAnne Hall, JD
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors Matthew 6:12
Do we really want God to forgive us as we forgive others? Understanding forgiveness had been a struggle for me until one day the message of David and Bathsheba seemed to sink in. After David sinned with Bathsheba, there were many who were hurt by this act; many people who would be betrayed by David’s act. But David says in 2 Samuel 12:13
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.
And in Psalm 51:4
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight
How can that be? How can it be that David hurt and betrayed so many but it was only God that he sinned against? Then it occurred to me that this is the key to forgiveness. When someone hurts you or betrays you it is God that they have truly sinned against, not you. You may be hurt, but the real offense is against God. It is up to God to decide the consequences for these actions, not you. Our God is a jealous God and claims certain things to be his own. I believe that is why Paul wrote in Romans 12:19:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Forgiveness for us is easier when we understand that the true assault is against God and that He will take care of the punishment in due time.
On a personal level, forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the forgiven. We are supposed to forgive someone for our own spiritual protection. Refusing to forgive someone leads to bitterness. Bitterness is caustic and destroys you not the person who hurt you. We do not have to wait for someone to ask for forgiveness to forgive them, nor should we. Take these examples to heart. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he did not wait for his assailants to ask for forgiveness, he pleaded to God on their behalf:
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Acts 7:60
Jesus when he was about to be betrayed by Judas, kissed him and sent him on his way and as He hung on the cross, Jesus said to all eternity:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34
Forgiveness is essential for our own spiritual well-being. Paul asks Jesus this very important question:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22
Why would Jesus make such an “unreasonable” demand upon us? He knew that when we refuse to forgive and bitterness is the result and we will be lost.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15
I believe a great source of confusion lies within the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is personal and doesn’t require the other person’s participation but reconciliation does! You can forgive someone and never be reconciled with them because reconciliation requires the offender to humble himself and repent of the offense.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Mathew 5:23-24
Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins…the whole world’s sins. But only those who confess, repent, and accept that forgiveness receive reconciliation with God and eternal life.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Our lives are but a picture of our relationship with Christ. Our relationships with each other work the same way. Reconciliation with your brother only comes through repentance.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. John 5:16
In conclusion, it is easier to forgive when you remember that the real offense is against God and not you. God is control and will never leave you or forsake you. Forgiveness is a matter of YOUR heart and is essential to your spiritual health.
Notice I said “easier” not easy. When Jesus tried to explain this to the apostles their reply was, “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. Luke 17:5.”
The road to righteous living is never easy, but the reward at the end is always worth it. May God Increase our Faith!