Forgiveness can be a real struggle because genuine forgiveness comes even when repentance is not expressed. That can make our ability to forgive someone a very difficult task. Forgiveness is often a daily exercise and can be one of the hardest things in life to do, forgiveness allows us to let go of any loathing and bitterness that we could still be holding toward one another. To be the one forgiven on the other hand most of the time is a wonderful feeling, however it can also be a terrifying adventure. Forgiveness is very serious business, because it requires the shedding of blood. Forgiveness is not some cheap, throwaway declaration: “Oh, that’s okay…I forgive you.” In addition, it is not to be taken lightly; it is a transaction immersed in blood every time it takes place.
Forgiveness is a key biblical concept in relation to our salvation. It is also key in its practical application in the Christian’s life. Jesus taught on this subject in Matthew 18:15-21 He provided instructions for restoring a brother who has sinned. However what if you are the offender? In Matthew 5:23-24, Christ taught, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” If you come to worship and remember that you wronged your brother, the counsel given is not to begin worship, but to go and be reconciled to your brother.
Many people have the mistaken idea that forgiveness eliminates the fact of our sin. It does not. Sin does not just “disappear” when we say we are sorry. It must be dealt with. Through the blood of Jesus, our sin is covered, but it does not magically disappear. The prodigal son went to the far country… and every scar he received there he carried home. Although, his father forgave him his sins did not go away. Neither does forgiveness eradicate the consequences of sin. It would serve us well to remember the universal laws of cause and effect are not superseded by forgiveness. Sin’s consequences remain.
The forgiven must forgive. Our forgiving others is the proof that we ourselves have been truly forgiven. We have been forgiven an infinite debt! If we understand how great that debt was, we will overflow with love and gratitude for our merciful Lord Jesus, and we will overflow with mercy towards others. How dare we not live in forgiveness and in mercy! If you are a true Christian, you will adore God for showing you mercy. You will love God and you will love his people. An unforgiving person in the body of Christ proves that he or she is false in his or her claim to be a Christian. Such a person will be dealt with on the basis of God’s justice on the day of judgment. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. (Rom. 1:18)
Forgiveness also sets up the possibility for restoration of the relationship. We know that forgiveness requires repentance, and some of us have become experts at repenting. However, forgiveness, when possible, also involves restitution, so that restoration can be achieved. There is a cost to forgive, and it costs us to be forgiven. Anyone who offers or expects easy, cheap forgiveness has yet to come to terms with the seriousness of sin.
When you learn to forgive as God declares in Isaiah 58:14, “you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” There is tremendous joy in the Lord for those who live by these words of forgiveness, who remember what unlimited mercy has been poured out on us through Jesus and who show the same mercy toward others. This joy is as abundant, as rich and as unlimited as the Lord’s abundant forgiveness of us.
It is my prayer that you would experience this forgiveness, practice this forgiveness and, in so doing, receive this joy.