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(Matthew 18:21-35)

Lesson 8 -- first quarter 1999
January 24, 1999

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

"If he asks for my forgiveness, I'll quickly and gladly forgive him. But he refuses to apologize, so...." Believe it or not, this person even pointed to Divine example: God doesn't forgive us until we ask for that forgiveness. Hmmm! Now what do you say to that?!

True, we must first come to God in repentance before He will forgive us. But shall I put myself in the place of God as I relate to my fellow man?! God forbid! He alone is the Sovereign Judge and King. I must refuse to relate to you as though I were infinitely better than and superior to you.

True, we must first come to God in repentance before He will forgive us. But He took the first step by sacrificing His Son that the way of forgiveness might be ready for me! I will not sacrifice myself to facilitate your coming to me for forgiveness, but if I sacrifice my self, I suspect that will help clear the way for you.

Sacrifice my self? Yes. I believe one of the hindrances to my forgiving anyone is my own ego. If it weren't for my selfish interests, I would find it much easier to forgive others their trespasses against me. You see, forgiveness is primarily about blessing another. Selfishness wants to bless me first and foremost.

Of course being a forgiver has plenty of "fringe benefits" for the practitioner. If I forgive, I free God to forgive me. If I forgive, I free myself from grind of keeping track of wrongs and so forth. In other words, if I forgive I free myself in my relationships to God and others. But never forget that forgiveness is primarily concerned with granting freedom and blessing to another.

So how often shall I forgive another? As often as he needs it. Brother Z wronged me three times in one week, so he needs forgiving for those three times. I must also forgive him as often as I need it. Yep, that's right. You see, this week in question may have been four years ago by now...and every so often I struggle all over again with the hurt, the insult, the anguish, the embarrassment and the anger. And every time the struggle returns, I need to forgive him. No, I don't mean I should go to Brother Z to remind him again of the offense and assure him again that I forgive him. I simply mean renewing the decision to release him of his debt to me. In other words, forgive him.

From the previous paragraph (and likely from your own life as well) we see that human forgiveness has little to do with forgetfulness. "Forgive and forget" sets the standard way above the attainable. Forgiveness does its work despite the memories. In fact, we could say that forgiveness does its work because of the memories. However, forgiveness does not indulge the memories and their feelings. Rather, forgiveness affirms its action and then refuses to review the offense and the accompanying feelings. Will you forgive?

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