Sunday, February 12, 2012

Part Five: FORGIVENESS

In continuing our study on “Burnt Stones” we now look at the subjects of Forgiveness, which is a foundational  aspect of spiritual health. –Billy Long

Forgiveness
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Matthew 6: 12.
One basic requirement for spiritual health is forgiveness. Conversely, unforgiveness is a major cause of spiritual derailment. The Biblical command is clear and simple and yet one of the most difficult to obey. A person does not have to be spiritually "deep" or intellectually brilliant to understand the verses relating to forgiveness, but there is something in human nature that tends to embrace unforgiveness and receives some perverted sense of satisfaction in harboring resentment.
Conflict and mistreatment bring wounds and pain, and so victims feel they have a right to be angry and bitter. People who have been victimized will go to great lengths to customize scripture to fit the inclinations of the moment in order to justify their wrong attitudes. And those who do want to be free often struggle for months or years to gain victory. It should not take so long, but the weakness of the flesh can prolong the process. A person must cultivate his daily walk with the Lord to gain victory. If he neglects this, his heart will harden and he may never be free.

Understanding God's Forgiveness. 
Understanding God’s forgiveness releases God’s love and enables us to forgive others who mistreat us. We forgive because God has forgiven us and commands us to forgive others (Matthew 18: 3; Luke 7: 47; Matthew 6: 12). We often fail to forgive because we fail to recognize the magnitude of the forgiveness we have received from God. Unforgiveness, therefore, is rooted in self-righteousness and ingratitude.

Knowing that God is the Righteous Judge.
People refuse to forgive offenses because they do not have faith in God as the Righteous Judge.
Righteous men love justice (freeing the innocent and punishing the guilty) and cry out for it in society. Carnal men, however, confuse revenge with justice. Justice cries out for a man to be dealt with according to truth based on God's law and God's ways. Revenge simply wants to satisfy our lower nature by inflicting pain in return for an injury received. Revenge is indifferent to mercy and to justice. Revenge cares not for God's ways or God's purpose. Revenge is a selfish lack of faith and love. People seek revenge because they do not trust God to be the Righteous Judge. They do not think He will adequately punish their enemies.
We must always remember that God is the righteous judge. We are commanded to forgive and leave vengeance to Him.
“Who…when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…” 1 Peter 2:23
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to [God’s] wrath;for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12: 19

Following Christ’s example and command.
God showed His love toward us in that Christ died for us while we were still sinners and in rebellion (Romans 5: 8). Jesus taught His disciples to love those who mistreat them (Matthew 5: 39-49), and to forgive offenses seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-35). We must forgive even when the offender does not repent.

Forgiveness and Trust
This brings up an important point. Forgiveness and trust are two separate issues. You can forgive someone but still not trust him. If a person apologizes, you can forgive him, but you are not required to trust him unless he repents and changes.
For example: Let’s say you are riding in a car with a neighbor who is breaking all the traffic laws, speeding, running red lights, passing on curves, and refusing to yield right-of-way.
You appeal to him to change his ways, but he refuses to listen to your warnings. Then he wrecks his car and injures you in the accident. Later you are standing beside the road with casts on your broken arms and legs, still in pain from your injuries, and your neighbor drives up and stops along side you. He says, “I am so sorry that I hurt you.” You respond, “I forgive you.” He then opens the car door and says, “Hop in and let’s go for a ride.” It would be very acceptable for you to say, “I forgive you and love you because I am a follower of Jesus. I hold no resentment toward you. But I will not get in the car with you again until I know you have changed your ways and attitude about driving and obeying the traffic laws. I forgive you, but I do not yet trust you.”

Mercy
Mercy is benevolence, mildness, and tenderness of heart which disposes one to overlook injuries and to treat an offender better than he deserves. It is the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, to forbear punishment, or to inflict less than law or justice will warrant. It acknowledges the offense but wants to help the offender.
Mercy is with a view towards repentance (2 Peter 3: 7-10) and is a companion of justice. Mercy and compassion will walk with a person to the last mile in trying to help him gain freedom and deliverance. Mercy is given to the repentant. It forgives, but follows through with all the requirements of Biblical love and integrity. Mercy has strength to speak the truth in love. It forgives the offender, while acknowledging the offense and recognizing its harmful effects. Mercy will give correction and rebuke when necessary, but will do so in love and will forgive.
Matthew 5: 18; Luke 6: 35-36.

Conclusion
Forgiveness is so important to our spiritual health. Unforgiveness, however, is an element in the rubble of the past that must be removed in order to build again and move forward with healthy spiritual growth and life. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us and who has forgiven us of all our sins. As we trust Him and follow in obedience in the arena of forgiveness, we will experience anew His grace and strength, and the hidden treasures that are ours in His kingdom.

3 comments:

Billy Long said...

Good point, Lonnie. Thanks for the comment.
Billy

Break the Mold said...

Great reminders on forgiveness. I am always asked how I can forgive things that others deem unforgivable and I think of Christs unending, undeserved, unlimited forgiveness towards me and it seems obvious...no choice but to forgive.
Can't experience the peace tied to that one act without first offering it to someone.
Dawn

Billy Long said...

How true, Dawn!
Billy