This is the fourth in the series of blogs addressing the all-important subject of forgiveness. I opened the series with Matthew 7:1-6. Jesus teaches the importance of proper judging in the context of relationships. Relationships matter. Since we live in a fallen world, everyone can expect to sin and be sinned against. A person’s response to each is a crucial issue. Forgiveness is one means by which God opens the flood gate of His goodness. In that light, we defined forgiveness as a transaction, at least between the forgiver and God, and often the other person, others, and self not to hold the offense against the offender. The forgiver goes on record promising and declaring not to let the sin harm the relationship.
Forgiveness of one believer to another believer is modeled after God’s forgiveness – I will remember your sins no more (Jer. 31:31-34; Isa. 38:17; 43:25; 44:22). This is not legal fiction. Because God has placed the believer’s sin debt on Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), there is no condemnation for the believer as he is in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Therefore as forgiven people, believers are to think and act forgiven (Rom. 6:11). The believer will be ready to grant forgiveness AND he will grant it as is appropriate.
Previously, I discussed various categories of forgiveness including Judicial, Paternal, Familial, and Non-familial Forgiveness. The believer always is to stand ready to forgive. It is Christ-like to forgive (Eph. 4:31-32; Col. 3:12-14). It is also Christ-like to be ready to forgive (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 2 Tim. 4:16).
A forgiving attitude and the granting of forgiveness are to be directed from one believer to another believer (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25). What motivation does God give for functioning as a forgiving person? God answers the question in Matthew 18:21-35 and Luke 7:36-50. Those passages highlight the magnitude of man’s indebtedness to God and man’s woefully arrogant, ignorant suppression of that truth. The first servant in the Matthew 18 passage, when confronted with “pay-up”, begged for mercy and received it. In his begging, he claimed he would repay his debt even though the amount was outrageously high and un-payable. His arrogance and ignorance toward God was manifested when he failed to respond to his fellow servant as the master did to him.
The Luke passage teaches that the degree of loving and forgiveness are linked. Mary considered forgiveness a supernatural and awesome gift. She understood God’s forgiveness of her as a gift of love. Therefore, as a forgiven person, she was quick to love Jesus. In contrast to Simon, as a forgiven person, Mary was much quicker to function as a forgiving person. Forgiven people are lovers of God and lovers of others. They have a willingness to forgive AND quickly forgive when the other party repents.
In regard to the unbeliever, the believer will maintain a forgiving attitude (Mark 11:25). However, there is no requirement to grant forgiveness (some call this transactional forgiveness) to those who fail to repent, believer or unbeliever. Moreover, the unbeliever can’t repent because he has no concept of sin and has no indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore the believer can’t grant forgiveness to the unbeliever although he must stand ready to forgive. The believer, as the spiritual mature one, must determine where the sin resides: with him and or the other person. To the degree that the believer has contributed to the broken relationship, he must approach the unbeliever expressing a desire to correct what he can. He must approach the believer ready to reconcile.
1. Continue to study the material on forgiveness. Determine your understanding of it.
2. What is your view of your own sinfulness? How does 1 Tim. 1:15 help you understand AND apply Matt. 7:1-6?
3. What relationships do you need to make application of the principles?