- Betty Roby
CHOOSE TO FORGIVE
Forgiveness is a subject that is much talked about, discussed and a lot has been written about it. Quite understandably, since it is such a vital part of a good relationship between people and more importantly with God. For a Christian, it is even more imperative to perfect the art of forgiveness, to choose to forgive, because that is what Jesus Christ demonstrated on the cross, when He asked His Father in heaven, to forgive His tormentors and for us humans, forgiveness is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when it has to be offered to another. Luke 23:34a Jesus said, "Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." The forgiveness that Jesus offered from the cross was not merely to the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the High Priests or the Jews who refused to accept the Sonship of Jesus or in relation to their participation in the cruel act of crucifixion that resulted in the death of Jesus. It was a perfectly worked out divine gift, offered to every person for past, present and future sins... a finished act, that was absolute and complete, to be believed and received by all mankind. And why was this done? Out of love... God's love for His people. So we understand all of this. Then why do we struggle so much with forgiveness? Why is it difficult to forgive others and ourselves? Why do we hold on to misconceptions about forgiveness, that keep us from being able to forgive others? Let's take a look at the parable of the unmerciful servant. There are four important aspects of forgiveness that we need to intentionally and deliberately incorporate in our life, so as to make it a way of life.
1. Ask for forgiveness Matthew 18:23-27 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. "Be patient with me," he begged, "and I will pay back everything." The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. Forgiveness is hard to come by, in fact it is quite difficult to let go of the hurt, the pain, the misery that one goes through and one carries. But we see here that the servant despite knowing that he was at fault and had not repaid his debt, took a chance in asking the king to forgive his debt and to give him another opportunity to repay the amount he owed his master.
He had the courage to ask for favour, though he knew that he didn't deserve it. So that's the first step... seeking forgiveness to rectify the wrongdoing. We can't change what has already been done, but we can change the outcome or our response to those actions. Therefore choose to seek forgiveness.
2. Extend forgiveness We see here, that the master was quick to extend forgiveness to the servant, despite the servant owing a huge sum of money. He was in no way endorsing what the servant had done was acceptable, but he was merciful to the plight of the servant and in grace, forgave his debt, in fact he canceled it all. In doing so, the master gave the servant a glimpse into a valuable asset, his heart held... forgiveness. This was a life lesson for the servant. 3. Receive forgiveness Forgiveness is a gift from God and we ought to receive it graciously. More so because, when we are wrong, we are undeserving of it, yet it is offered to us. Likewise, the merciful master here, agreed to cancel the servant's debt and offered pardon to the undeserving servant. Of course, the servant readily accepted it, because he had asked for it. He received the gift of forgiveness with gratitude. Receiving forgiveness means acknowledging that one is wrong or in error and is willing to make amends and come into a position of restoration or reconciliation. 4. Receive forgiveness We saw three aspects of forgiveness... asking or seeking, extending and receiving and now we come to the most difficult part. Let's take a look at the remainder of the passage.
Matthew 18:28-30 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him. 'Be patient with me and I will pay it back.' "But he refused. Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt." Here's the servant who had just been pardoned by his master of an unpayable debt. As soon as he laid eyes on a fellow servant who owed him far lesser, than what he owed his master, he assaulted him and with ferocity demanded the debt to be repaid. The fellow servant begged and pleaded just like how the first servant had done. Sadly, the response was just the opposite and he was greeted with rebuke and a time in prison.
What changed here? Why couldn't the former servant forgive the latter? 1. It was a matter of pride or ego and arrogance that made the servant withhold the gift of forgiveness that he had received a short while before. He wanted it and received it, but refused to pass it on. 2. An unwilling, unrepentant heart that refused to acknowledge and fathom the magnitude of grace and forgiveness. The servant should have changed his own willingness to forgive the one who wronged him, just as much as he was willing and wanted to be forgiven. 3. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a deliberate, conscious act. The master readily forgave because he knew it was the right thing to do but the servant refused to forgive because he didn't feel right to do so. 4. It is essential to loosen the grip of unforgiveness. It is not about settling scores or proving a point. It is not about who is going to emerge a winner. It is not about looking for an opportunity to strike back or retaliate. Unforgiveness reaps bitterness, that grows over a period of time and takes root in our heart leading to still greater negative emotions of anger and hatred. It is important not to be enslaved in unforgiveness that allows bitterness to make a forever home in our heart. So what was the consequence of the unmerciful servant's action? Matthew 18:32-34 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant, he said. 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed." If God, the Father can forgive us of all our sins, who are we to withhold forgiveness from another? Obviously we can't be playing God here. God doesn't limit forgiveness so why should we? We need not go to a place of, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' (Exodus 21:24) or question, 'How many times shall I forgive?" (Matthew 18:21) rather, be in a position of keeping 'no record of wrongs' (1Corinthians 13:5).
Experience the compassionate outpouring of God's grace and forgiveness in our own lives and in turn, extend the same to those who have wronged us. Release forgiveness and be free and liberated, and thus enable the release of blessings in the lives of those who need to be forgiven. Experience the peace in the freedom that forgiveness gives. Our choice of forgiveness and unforgiveness has far-reaching ramifications. We need to pass on forgiveness so as to restore our relationship with the others and more importantly with God so as to reconcile with Him. Our forgiveness is an act of obedience and it pleases God.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. I don't know about you, but I want to be forgiven quickly and unconditionally and I want to do the same unto another. So how often have you sought forgiveness? How often has forgiveness been extended to you? How often have you received the gift of forgiveness, though undeserving? And how often have you passed on the gift of forgiveness to another? Therefore ask, extend, receive and pass on this free gift and do so as many times as you may have to. You see, this gift is not ours to withhold. It is God's!
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