EVERY ONE of us have failed another and were in dire need of their forgiveness. We also know the pain of another that has failed us. This is all too clear when we look at our close relationships such as with our spouses, children and the like. Without forgiveness, we could never have lasting relationships. It’s only through forgiving others can we ever expect to receive forgiveness [Matthew 6:14-15].
We learn from this scripture, that forgiveness is an essential aspect of our walk with God, and we desire He forgive us our trespasses against Him. We also urge folks to forgive others, citing this same passage. This is an easy teaching, that is, until we are the ones that need to forgive. Forgiveness is much more difficult to practice than it is to teach.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He left us instructions on how to practice forgiveness, even giving us His Son as the perfect example [Ephesians 4:32 …. forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you]. Jesus is incredibly merciful, having given His life while we were ungodly sinners and enemies [Romans 5:6-10].
Let’s consider the Scriptures regarding how to practice forgiveness.
First, we need to face the facts that even after we’ve forgiven someone, they very likely will need to be forgiven again. We need look no further than our own mirrors to realize this truth. Jesus was asked how many times one should forgive their brother. His answer, “…up to seventy times seven.” [Matthew 18:22]. Before you start counting down to 490, understand that the lesson is that there’s no limit to the number of times we are to extend forgiveness.
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Praise the Lord that there’s no upper limit on the number of times HE WILL FORGIVE YOU. Look again at the command on forgiveness in Matthew 6, there’s no cap. How often will He forgive you? He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1John 1:9] If forgiveness were a number where then is mercy, grace, compassion and kindness?
Next, we need to show compassion toward the one seeking our forgiveness. Empathy is a part of forgiveness. Looking again at Matthew 6, we see that The Lord is connecting a reminder of your own sin to that of the one we need to forgive.
Do you recall your sins against Him? How do you feel, guilty? David wrote that, “my sin is ever before me.” [Psalm 51:2] Did you feel that way? How much did you need God’s forgiveness? How long did you desire to return to Joy, knowing that you were out of fellowship with God?
When someone is seeking your forgiveness, remind yourself of your own shortcomings toward God. YOU MAY FIND THAT YOU NEED FORGIVENESS FROM THE VERY PERSON SEEKING IT FROM YOU!
Lastly, we need to let it go. Some folks say they forgive but when they’re sinned against again, they will drudge up the past failings. Why do you suppose sayings like, “Bury the hatchet, but remember where you buried it in case you need it” exist? It’s hard to let go when we’ve been wronged.
The Lord has shown us through His own forgiveness toward us, how we are to complete the process. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” [Hebrews 10:17] Without this last step, forgiveness hasn’t really occurred. When we hang onto the memory of the wrong, it will fester in our hearts, hardening us against them, preventing forgiveness.
If we fail to forgive, fully, we are in jeopardy of losing our own salvation. Our very hope of eternal life is dependent upon God forgiving us our own sins, and His forgiveness is contingent upon US FORGIVING OTHERS.
I said that to say this…….
As a preacher, I am commanded to preach, “…in season, out of season…” [2Timothy 4:2]. This means that I need to teach whether or not it’s liked by the hearer, preaching the truth in love. [Ephesians 4:15] Paul continues by saying to, “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” People never like to be rebuked (sharp disapproval), nor do they enjoy being reproved (reprimanded), but that is my charge.
In the process of doing my duty, I’m placed in a very precarious situation, so I follow the example of the early preachers who prayed for boldness [Acts 4:29]. This boldness I request, may come across as arrogance, the rebuke as closed minded and the reproof as downright meanness. I’ve been accused of preaching too negatively by one and rebuked for not enough fire and brimstone by another.
I beg you therefore, give me the benefit of the doubt. When I preach, I may touch a touchy subject. I may step on your toes (though I was aiming for your heart). Paul struggled with this as well, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.” [2Corintheans 7:8] I may even hurt your feelings. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE forgive me! My brother, please know that I do my job out of a deep love for you, that you and I may go to Heaven.
As a human being, I may even say something wrong. WHEN I do, please love me and FORGIVE me as I repent of those things. We’ll learn how to do this together, to forgive one another.