504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness. What a tricky concept. When we read of or experience injustice (especially if it is personal), the “get even” juices start to flow. We may say the words, “I forgive” but the emotional release is much more difficult. But hold on for just a minute. Forgiveness has at least three aspects:
1)Asking for and receiving forgiveness from God
2)Asking for and receiving forgiveness from another person
3)Forgiving someone who has wronged you

Let me visit them in reverse order. To extend forgiveness to another is still to keep “the power.” What? You mean we should release our right to be right? I might consider it if the person who offended me grovels a bit. An even trickier decision is to forgive even if we aren’t asked. Yet secular psychologists seem to grasp what the Jesus says about extending forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (NIV)

To be a person with an attitude that extends forgiveness is to be a person who does not harbor a lingering bitterness.

The second part of the equation is to ask forgiveness from someone whom we have offended. In order to do that, I have to admit that I was wrong and then approach another person with that admission. Even though it likely restores the relationship, the conversation is one of the more difficult ones that humans ever have.

Finally, the forgiveness that seems to be easy is to ask for and receive forgiveness from God. We just throw up a quick prayer and say “Sorry, God, I messed up again. I’ll try to do better.” Too often, I go to God for forgiveness without lingering on the realization of what it cost God to offer it.

John 3:16-17
16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. (NASB)

For me the really difficult part is to see the many verses that seem to link the three aspects of forgiveness together. For us to receive forgiveness from God, we have to see the connection between all of them. If we will not ask for or extend forgiveness, how can we embrace the tremendously powerful dynamic of forgiveness from the Heavenly Father. The uncomfortable truth about reciprocating forgiveness is the subject of many passages and verses. Let me include two as representative

Matthew 6:14-16
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV)

We also forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered:

Mark 11:25
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (NIV)

As I pray for forgiveness today, I might linger awhile. It is a divine transaction.

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