Forgiving or Forsaking - Pt. 3a
Having looked at the responsibility of seeking forgiveness when we find ourselves in having, whether true or not, been perceived to have committed some error against another. In this meditation, we will look at the necessity of extending forgiveness, and follow-up next week to see the ramifications for rejecting forgiveness.
We now turn our attention to the party who must do the forgiving. The word, "must", being used intentionally, for not to forgive is the antithesis of the grand theme of the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul essentially sums up this theme when he penned, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Romans 5:6-21. When considering the topic of forgiveness, a portion of this passage stands out significantly:
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved through his life." - Romans 5:6-10
Three lessons we can draw from this great example of forgiveness are:
First, we MUST forgive in spite of a desire for personal gratification. More often than not, the reason someone will not forgive another is simply rooted in a sense of pride, and a desire to keep leverage over the transgressor. Somehow we maintain that, as long as the other party needs my forgiveness, they will somehow feel my pain or discomfort. Yet, (praise God!) the Lord plays no such games with us. We had no way to earn God's forgiveness, and we had no way to placate the just demands of a Holy God. On the contrary, rather then dangle His favor as some unattainable carrot on a stick, He took our forgiveness personally, "nailing it to his cross;" (Col. 2:14).
Second, we MUST forgive promptly. Notice the phrase, "in due time". It gives the sense of being accomplished in an appropriate season. There is no doubt that instant reconciliation is not always possible. However, there is no place for purposeful delay in reaching out for reconciliation. Especially if the perceived wrong-doer is also reaching in your direction, waving the black flag of parley.
Third, we can only forgive when we choose to love as Christ loves us. In Colossians 3:12-14 Paul urges us to:
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
Do you hear the call to forgive? Beyond our own perceived capacity. Beyond our ability to forget. Beyond our desire for revenge or retribution. According to the Scriptures, since we MUST choost to forgive, we must choose to love. It is a Biblical impossibility to be truly willing to forgive without loving, and to love without being truly willing to forgive.
It is impossible for me to know how you have been slighted. There exists a myriad of egregious, sinful actions that can be perpetrated between individuals, yet the plea is still the same, to forgive as Christ has forgiven you. Whatever they have been perceived to have done, the only Biblical response is to seek to forgive humbly, in a timely manner, with a heart of love.
Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV)
 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.  But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:  Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. - Mat 18:21-35 KJV