Luke 6:35-38 – When Jesus was teaching the Lord’s prayer to his disciples, immediately after he taught them about forgiveness. Forgive and be forgiven Jesus taught. This is a sobering truth.
Why does God consider forgiveness so important? Why is he so concerned that his children should forgive and be forgiven?
Our father which art in heaven is kind to mankind. We represent him here. Mercy is the attribute on which Salvation depends. Without God’s forgiveness we are lost! There is no hope for us.
God calls us to model the kind of forgiveness that he shows to his children. As the Father… so the children… When we show this characteristic to one another we glorify God and we show people something that can call people to God.
There Must be an Offense
Without an offense there is no need for forgiveness. What is an offense?
- An injury, physical or emotional caused by another person.
- Someones callousness can offend us
- Rudeness can offend us
- Broken promises can cause offense. Little things… big things…
- Robbery, crime, etc.
The Response to Offense
Once there is an offense we have to look at our response. We are creatures of emotion and the natural response to offense is annoyance/anger/rage/etc. We tend to look for repayment of the wrong.
Ephesians 4:31 – We, as Christians are called to a higher response. A great contrast is shown here to that of the initial desire to respond with “fairness and justice.” Our judgement in responding to offenses can be clouded, self centered and often isn’t really honestly fair.
God wants us to forgive. Forgiveness is the letting go of the right to repayment of a debt that is owed. It is a conscious erasing of accounts due from the record. True forgiveness takes the grace and work of God within us.
Steps to Forgiveness
As we respond to offenses that come our way we don’t really think about the steps we go through. However there are several steps that occur as we process an offense.
- Acknowledge that there has been an offense. Something happened.
- Consider the thing. Many times offenses are misread, assumed or imagined. They are born out of lack of love or suspicion. Following Christ and being more like Jesus will allow us to be offended less easily. Selfishness is the root of many misunderstandings. 1 Corinthians 13
- Compare our debt to God with the debt that our offender has to us.
- Think about the question, “Is God in Control?” Joseph is a model example of forgiveness when he forgave his brothers. He acknowledged that God was sovereign and that God had allowed it. His brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
- Forgiveness. A conscious decision, by the grace of God to lay down our rights to justice and forgive our offender and release him from the debt.
Even when we forgive often toe offense comes back and hurts us again… in such a case we need to be willing to go through the process of forgiving again. Forgiveness is part of the cross life, dealing with self.
Believe. Trust. Obey. Forgive.
Minister to the offender
Romans 12:20 – Jesus also calls us to minister to those who have hurt us. Do not overcome evil, overcome evil with Good. In ministering in this way our own souls are being ministered to and being strengthened.
- Love the offender. We are called to love those who have hurt us, those who are our “enemies.”
- Pray for the offender. Pray for their salvation, for blessing on their life. Don’t pray selfishly.
- Do good to the offender.
We haven’t truly forgiven an offender until we can do these things for him. Love. Pray. Do good for them.