Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Forgiveness: Unconditional Grace

Chuckle: A small boy in a department store was standing near the escalator watching the moving handrail. "Something wrong, son?" inquired a floorwalker. "Nope," replied the boy. "I'm just waiting for my chewing gum to come back."

A Good Quote: "Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury." --E. H. Chapin


"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father Who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (Mark 11:26 NIV). "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14 NIV). “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as, in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

Forgiveness is a word often used, but not always understood. In the New Testament, four Greek words are used in dealing with “forgiveness.“ They mean: (1) to deal graciously with, (2) to dispatch or send away, (3) to release, and (4) to overlook. If we digest these meanings, we can better understand the Psalmist when he says God’s forgiveness “removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.” Our sins are remembered no more -- as if they never occurred.

Forgiveness is a word of such unconditional grace that its true meaning often challenges each of us to go beyond where we are willing to go to reconcile with our brother or sister. In the New Testament several points are made clear. First, the forgiven sinner must forgive others. "Forgive and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). Second, forgiveness is to be whole-hearted and complete. It is to be like Christ’s forgiveness: "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

Have you ever been so consumed by anger or felt such severe pain that you wanted to withhold forgiveness until your offender begged for it? Do we demand that the offender grovel at our feet in apology -- sometimes over and over again? By making our forgiveness so dependent on the actions of the offender, we grant considerable power over our lives to the one who injured us -- setting us up to be a victim twice!

Thus we continue to harbor anger which we allow to fester and rob us of our joy as Christians. We should never allow the actions of another person to deprive us of the joy and contentment that our faith in Jesus Christ has brought to us. Simply stated, if you enjoy eternal forgiveness from the Lord, you need to be willing to forgive others here in the present! We have been forgiven, and now we need to forgive, which is an act of unconditional grace.

Let's not allow the actions of others to become a stumbling block in our walk with our Lord. We have been forgiven much and, in the same way, we must forgive others and release to the Lord those who've hurt us. He has promised that He will repay, if payment is due, and God keeps His word. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). By releasing our offender, we are truly setting ourselves free!

By graciously forgiving those who offend you, and letting them know of that forgiveness, you can serve as an inspiration to them and others. As you model Biblical forgiveness, you become an instrument in God’s hands to impact the lives of other people.

One final thought. As we develop a Christlike forgiving spirit, we will find that our threshold for becoming offended will continue to rise and we will become less easily offended. Also, our tolerance for the faults in others will increase dramatically.

Love, Jerry & Dotse