Understanding Forgiveness Better

If I were to ask you, “What does it mean to forgive,” and “How is forgiveness obtained,” what would be your answer? Forgiveness is a vital important doctrine of the Christian faith, but it seems there are many who are actually ignorant as to the instructions by Christ.

Peter came to the Lord one day and asked this question,

“Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”

Some things to notice, before we continue:
1) Peter specifically uses the relationship of a brother, therefore we can remove any notion that an unsaved person is meant.
2) Peter specifically is inquiring as to the number of times he is expected to forgive. Peter directly refers to a repeated offense(s) committed against him.
3) Peter then makes a guess suggestion of 7 times
4) When Peter brings this query to the Lord for His consideration, make note that this is a personal issue Peter speaks of, not a corporate or group issue. It is specifically between two people within the church.

The Lord’s response is very profound and mind boggling, as He does not agree with Peter’s suggestion of 7 times. Rather Jesus multiplies the amount of forgiveness. This is poetic, being that if man is willing to forgive 7 times, then more should be expected. Why? Because forgiveness is NOT of man, nor within the power of man that he may limit it. Forgiveness is a supernatural act. Notice the answer provided to Peter by the Lord:

“I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Jesus then proceeds to tell the story of the Unforgiving Servant. In this story a servant begs the forgiveness of a debt he rightly owes. Once he receives forgiveness of the debt, he then is provided with the opportunity to do the same for a fellow servant. The servant refuses to forgive in the same manner he was forgiven. Note the irony, the first servant owed the amount of 10,000 talents. This, in today’s calculation is thought to be $2,250,000,000 US dollars. Now, the fellow servant owed the amount of 100 pence. 100 pence, by one resource is supposed to be valued at $362. We see then, the amount of forgiveness provided is not equal by any means. Reading further, we find out the penalty for the unforgiving servant was to be delivered unto the tormentors, until all his debt was paid. Jesus then delivers a very difficult passage for many people to swallow, when He says:

“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

According to the teaching here, forgiveness means that the debt is wiped clean. This means there is no remembrance of it. Why do I say that many are ignorant of this vital church doctrine? Simple…have you ever heard this phrase, “I will forgive, but never forget?” How about this one, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget?” Actually, that’s exactly what it means.

So many times we hear of sermons that cause the heart to swell regarding the forgiveness of God toward the sinner. Shouts can be heard down the street during revivals, where the preacher is talking about how great the forgiveness of God is. Saints flock to altars with tears flowing due to the forgiveness they have received. Now, as this is wonderful, how many leave that revival meeting and do exactly what the Unforgiving Servant did? They have been forgiven their sin against God Almighty, yet they refuse to forgive another’s sin against them. They have been forgiven a 10,000 talent debt, but won’t forgive 100 pence of debt. Folks, this ought not to be!

Recently, I had a situation occur to where a brother and I had not spoken in over a year, due to offenses being committed. Then a situation forced us to be together. Within days, the relationship had changed. We were speaking once again, but not only speaking, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. Is there still healing to take place and trust to be rebuilt? Of course, but mending is now possible. You see, sometimes, we have to be forced into a scenario to practice the teachings of Christ, for we are sinners, saved by grace, but sinners still. Until, that is, we are glorified.

What impedes forgiveness? Well, there are multiple things:
1) rebellion by one or both parties
2) pride/arrogance by one or both parties
3) distance by one or both parties

It is this distance that so many, I believe, do not consider. Some say they have forgiven someone they haven’t seen or spoken to since the offense was committed. I must disagree. Until the offense and offender are confronted and vice versa, forgiveness is simply an illusion we tell ourselves to make us “feel” Christian. Think for a second, when did you and God become Father and child? ONLY when you were confronted with your sin and you realized what you were. Then and ONLY then were you now able to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. Folks, it is very easy to say we have forgiven someone that we do not have to see, but I am sorry that is not forgiveness. That, my dear reader, is a lie of the devil. Think about it…in this situation what are our thoughts of that person when their name is mentioned or when we hear their voice or we see them on Facebook? Are we having good thoughts or negative thoughts? Are we thinking of the promise of tomorrow or are we reminded of the past and the hurt, which brings anger?

I know I have been longer than normal, but this is a much needed discussion we must have within and with God. Are we practicing and teaching true biblical forgiveness or are we pretending? Some say that it is impossible to forgive like God does. If this is true, then why did God inspire Paul to write:

“And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

In His service,
Pastor Chris