Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Power of Forgiveness

One of my dear Christian sisters had mentioned to me recently how she was struggling to forgive someone who has repeatedly offended her and continues to offend her. She has not seen any evidence of a changed heart to suggest this person will stop his/her behavior yet this person continues to ask for her forgiveness.

To forgive may be the hardest virtue that the Lord asks his followers to perform but how often are we supposed to forgive someone who keeps offending us with no apparent change of heart? The great apostle Peter posed this exact question to the Lord Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘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.’”(Matt. 18:21-22)

That is not a typo. Jesus said seventy times seven which would be 490 times! This seems impossible, doesn’t it? I would suggest that it is impossible until we focus our attention on how God forgives. Forgiveness is first and foremost a divine virtue that I believe is not possible to the extent that God requires until one has been forgiven by the Lord Jesus for his/her sins. It is only then that a person has a clear picture of their sinful condition before a holy and righteous God and understands the extent of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for one’s sins. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 3:23 and 5:8)

You see Christianity poses a personal Savior to forgive your sins and mine. In one sense Jesus did not die for the masses, He died for each and every person that comes to the cross asking for forgiveness for their own sins. Martyn Lloyd-Jones acutely understood this truth when he declared, “I say to the glory of God and in utter humility that whenever I see myself before God and realize even something of what my blessed Lord has done for me, I am ready to forgive anybody anything.”

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that not only is forgiveness the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to ensure we do not let offenses fester and turn into bitterness. "To forgive is to set the prisoner free, and then discover the prisoner was you." Someone once said to me that harboring bitter feelings against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Acts 8:23)

The Lord is not only asking us to forgive because of all He has forgiven us for but to also ensure that we do not become bitter people and make the gospel of no effect in our daily walk. This is not to say that we are to be doormats for the world to walk all over but in my experience, I have seen no other virtue that when on display brings the gospel into sharper focus to an unbelieving world than forgiveness. It is just that powerful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this, it really blessed me!