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Learning to Forgive

(Genesis 33:1-15)

Lesson 9 -- fourth quarter 2007
October 28, 2007

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2007

Will you forgive?

"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!

True, we must first come to God in repentance before He will forgive us. But He took the first step by sacrificing His Son so 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?

Whom does God forgive?

I think one of the biggest struggles people face has to do with the assurance that God would forgive them for what they have done. They view themselves as unworthy (which is true enough). They may consider the nature or frequency of their sin as just too much for God to forgive. They can easily see God forgiving others, even for similar and worse misdeeds, but the truth that God would forgive them is almost more than they can accept.

Perhaps the previous paragraph describes you. Maybe not all the time, but at least once in a while. Or perhaps it describes someone you know. In either case, it will benefit both of us to refresh in our minds just who it is that God chooses to forgive.

The Sinner. You don't have to be perfect in order for God to forgive you; in fact, you don't even have to be good. God forgives those who fail. It doesn't matter if you're a pagan sinner or a Christian sinner. Whether we sin frequently or occasionally, God extends forgiveness to us. If you have sinned, God will forgive you. I know that's pretty elementary, but we easily forget it.

The Penitent. God forgives sinners, but He doesn't forgive all sinners. To qualify for forgiveness, sinners need penitence. Regardless of how awful your sin, when you repent before God and ask Him to forgive you, He will indeed forgive you! Count on it.

Why does God forgive?

We know God hates sin. We know God takes all sin personally. We know God is holy. You would think that these three facts alone would lead God to absolutely refuse to forgive anyone. Nonetheless, praise Him, He does forgive! But why would He choose to do so?

Because of Who He is. God is full of mercy and compassion. He is loving and tender. God is pure and holy. God is true and just. These attributes of His character lead Him to one response toward a repentant sinner -- forgiveness!

Because He wants to. God chooses to forgive. What a blessing to realize that God wants to forgive me! Forgiveness is not a chore or a duty for God. It is not something burdensome or tiresome to Him. God is ready, eager and anxious to forgive us. Imagine!

Because He said He would. Read these verses: Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12. God said it and that settles it. Believe it!

What about me?

So, I have been forgiven, and I am assured of further forgiveness should I need it and request it. What effect should that have on me? What should be my response to those who sin, especially against me?

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

"And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:4).

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:13).

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