Ray Pritchard exclaimed, “You are never more like Jesus than when you forgive those who have sinned against you.”
Corrie Ten Boom's amazing story of forgiveness
Why? Because extending forgiveness to those who have wronged us is a very merciful thing to do, and Jesus is full of mercy! His abundant mercy is described well throughout Psalm 103:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. (Psalm 103:8)
Psalm 103:11-12 expresses just how high and wide is God’s mercy toward us.
How high: For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
How wide: As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Guarding Yourself from Unforgiveness
Please understand, forgiveness is not agreeing with a person's sin. It is simply releasing a person from their sins against you, just as God in His grace has released you from your sins against Him. To forgive anyone, we must trust God. Perhaps this is why so many people who reject the Lord balk at forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a trust issue. It says "I trust that the Lord is executing righteousness and justice for me. He is not withholding good from me. His plans for me are for good and not for evil, to give me hope and a future. And all the while He is working this to good."
Unforgiveness says, "I'm afraid God's idea of justice for my situation will look different than the way I want this to turn out. I fear God is not going to deal with this person according to what their sins deserve, so I better take it upon myself to bring about justice. I'm not going to excuse their sin by forgiving them. They don't deserve it!" Regardless if a person deserves forgiveness, we are to forgive them. Easy to do? Not at all. But through Christ we can do all things (Phil. 4:13)--even forgive the unforgivable, like Corrie Ten Boom did.
Jesus modeled this high standard of forgiveness in Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Freely We Have Received
We are so blessed that God does not deal with us according to our sins, or punish us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10) In His great love, He is like the king in Matthew 18:23 who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When a particular servant owed to the king more than he could ever repay, that servant begged the king to be patient with him. The king had compassion on the man and forgave his debt completely. (Matthew 18:24-27)
Like God, the king did not deal with the servant according to his sins, or punish the servant according to his iniquities. I imagine overjoyed doesn’t begin to describe the joyful relief that servant felt after having his debt wiped clean. Ironically though, despite the amazing gift of forgiveness this servant received, the Bible reports, “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.” (Matthew 18:28-30) Amazing!
May we guard ourselves from bitterness, being quick to extend to others the same grace and forgiveness that we’ve so joyfully received from our King. (Lamentations 3:22) Freely we have received. Let's now pour out that grace and mercy to others that God so freely gives us. (Matthew 10:8).
Questions for you: What are your tips for guarding against or overcoming bitterness, so that you are unhindered when forgiveness needs to be extended to others? What do you find to be the most difficult part about forgiveness?
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Copyright © 2013 Brooke Espinoza.