I will never forgive you!!!! I hate you! You are the scum of the earth!!! All of these statements may indeed reflect how we feel at some moment during a passionate fight, disagreement, or when we have been genuinely wronged. But where do we go from there? According to Christ, we must travel the road of forgiveness.
We have been examining Matthew 18:21 - 35. (For previous posts see PART 1 PART 2 PART 3 ) In the final verses, a servant who had been forgiven an impossible debt by his compassionate master went out and found a debtor who owed the servant money and cast the debtor into prison. The one who had been shown much mercy now showed none to others.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
So, a few quick notes on this.
1) An Unforgiving spirit will “find you out!” - Not having a forgiving spirit as a child of God makes us stand out like a sore thumb. People around us notice our actions.
2) An Unforgiving spirit is to not act in the character of our Lord. God is first and foremost holy. Without His forgiveness we cannot withstand His holiness. His forgiveness is undeserved. It is unmerited. It is amazing. We have been granted it. To not be forgiving is to act completely outside the character of the one who has forgiven us. Being unforgiving stands out. In this scripture the master says, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?"
3) An Unforgiving spirit will have consequences. In this story the master then delivered the servant to prison until he would pay all that was due. When we fail to forgive, we allow a person or circumstances to victimize us twice. The original offending act hurts us, and then we add to the hurt by harboring it. We further compound our misery be walking outside the will of God.
Can I remind us of a few things in closing?
1) We must forgive because Christ commands us to.
2) We must forgive because to fail to do so is to hinder our relationship with God - for example being unforgiving hinders our prayers. (Matthew 5:23 - 25)
3) We must forgive! Don’t pray about whether or not you should forgive. That is the same as praying about whether or not you will be obedient to God.
4). We must simply forgive. When talking to God about forgiving, don’t pray, “Lord, help me to forgive this person!” Just pray, “Lord, I forgive this person.” Get to it. Don’t avoid it.
Through 38 years of pastoring churches, I can say that a lack of forgiveness between people ranks as a top issue in the church. Hostilities between spouses, parents and children, between friends, between committee members, between people in leadership - all harm, hold back, and sometimes destroy the church.
For everyone who has experienced the love of God through His blessed forgiveness of our sins, how can we not walk with Him in extending the same to all around us? Forgiveness is challenging. It may or may not always be easy to do. When we forgive, we relieve ourselves of a great personal burden, and we fulfill the will of God. May we be like our Lord!