Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

 Chapter 13: Forgiveness

A Closer Look at Forgiving

When God forgives me of a sin, He is no longer holding that sin against me. He is no longer angry at me for what I did. I do not need to fear that He will punish me for that sin. The breach that previously existed in our relationship because of that sin is no longer there. My fellowship with Him is restored. That is forgiveness. Forgiveness results in reconciliation. ...

A Covenant of Forgiveness

How do you forgive someone and go on with your life? It is not easy, is it? ...

Confession and Forgiveness of Sins

Confession Hollywood Style. ....

Seven Things to Remember When You're Struggling to Forgive

Forgiveness doesn't deny that the offense happened, nor does it absolve the person of the guilt associated with the act. We can and should hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions, but we ultimately release our right to revenge to God. Bitterness and unforgiveness hurt us more than the one who has sinned against us. ...

All I Have to Offer

 "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."...

Confront, Forgive, and Forget

Just as God has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), you must now decide that this person is freed in regard to that past offense. Once you forgive him, you cannot drag up the offense again and again. You have released and liberated him completely from that sin....

Do We Have to Forgive Those Who Sin against Us if They Don't Repent?

Whether your offender is sorry or not, whether he ever expresses remorse or not, your decision to release him of his offense and debt to you will release you from your prison of bitterness and enable you to move forward. ...

Forgiven And Forgiving!

We can decide not to hold a grudge.. not to hit back.. not to retaliate.. but to behave like Jesus.. and respond as He did.. with blessing. Remember how He prayed for those who crucified Him.. Father, forgive them...

 Chapter 13: Forgiveness

A Closer Look at Forgiving

by David Servant

It's Friday after prayers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and worshippers are streaming from Al-Jafali Mosque to surround an area in the adjacent square that has been cordoned off by police. In the center of that square kneels a man with hands tied behind his back, flanked by an imam, a prison warden, and an executioner grasping a four-foot sword. The condemned man faces the victim's family some yards away, from whom he begs forgiveness. Behind him, on the other side of the square, the prisoner's family is weeping, also begging the victim's family to forgive.

A government official reads the charges and then the verdict, while the kneeling man closes his eyes and begins to recite verses from the Qur'an. The executioner lifts his gleaming sword. The faint look away.

Just then, at the very last moment, the victim's father steps forward, announcing that he forgives the condemned man. If the crowd was sympathetic towards the man who was about to be beheaded, they begin cheering and blessing the family. It is a celebration of mercy-which everyone instinctively knows is their only hope in the face of justice. Mercy, magnificent mercy, a fragrance of grace.

Not every intended public beheading in Saudi Arabia ends so joyously, because the families of many victims prefer justice over mercy. I suspect that even those families who choose to show mercy generally wait until the last moment---just so the condemned will suffer at least some justice as he agonizes in dread. How well they represent all of us. We're apt to prefer justice for others who wrong us, yet prefer mercy for ourselves when we wrong others. From this hypocrisy, we need to be cured.

The Cure for Unforgiveness

Jesus' Parable of the Unforgiving Servant was certainly intended to be that cure (see Matt. 18:23-35.) The primary character in the story wanted mercy for himself and justice for another, something that is fundamentally unjust and that angers God. We who have received such great mercy from God are obligated to show mercy to others. This is so important to God that Jesus warned that if we don't forgive our brothers, God will not forgive us:

But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matt. 6:15).

That truth is fully illustrated in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, where we read that the master re-instated his unmerciful servant's formerly-forgiven and insurmountable debt, and then, "moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him" (Matt. 18:34). Lest anyone mistakenly assume that the master's reaction in the parable was not representative of our gracious God, Jesus then added, "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Matt. 18:35).

Although professing Christians have been known to ignore, soften, or reject Jesus' clear teaching revealed in that parable, He undeniably and solemnly warned that His Father will reinstate the formerly-forgiven sins of His own children if they will not forgive. Finding themselves once again to be unforgiven sinners, they will ultimately be cast into hell to pay their impossible-to-pay debt. Their they will join all the other unforgiven people to receive the justice they deserve (and so desire for others). This doesn't exactly harmonize with the popular idea of "once saved, always saved," but I don't think Jesus stands to be corrected on it.

This being so, it seems as if it would be a good idea to make sure we forgive as Jesus commanded. This is a matter of eternal significance. Additionally, our forgiveness must not be just cosmetic, but it must be, as Jesus said, "...from your heart" (Matt. 18:35).

The Application

Many who take Jesus seriously regarding forgiveness have found that granting forgiveness is not always easy. Those of us who struggle to forgive are often plagued with fears that, in the end, God will declare us unforgiven, just as the unmerciful servant in Jesus' parable. These kinds of thoughts can be absolutely tormenting for those who are struggling to forgive others who have wronged them.

Those struggles, however, are quite often the product of a misunderstanding concerning (1) what it means to forgive and (2) whom God expects us to forgive. It may surprise you to know that God does not expect us to forgive everyone. In fact, there are people whom He definitely does not want us to forgive. If you don't believe me, keep reading.

Let's begin by first considering what it means to forgive. What some define as forgiveness is not really forgiveness at all. Their acts of "forgiveness" could be better described as attempts to be less angry with those whom they resent and whom they avoid as much as possible in order not to agitate deep-seated feelings of bitterness. I know what I'm talking about! I'll bet you do as well.

We can best learn what forgiveness is from God, since He practices forgiveness all the time.

When God forgives me of a sin, He is no longer holding that sin against me. He is no longer angry at me for what I did. I do not need to fear that He will punish me for that sin. The breach that previously existed in our relationship because of that sin is no longer there. My fellowship with Him is restored. That is forgiveness. Forgiveness results in reconciliation.

Forgiving someone is like canceling his debt. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the first servant owed his master a vast sum of money. He knew that if he didn't repay what he owed, he would suffer due punishment. He begged for mercy, and his master completely forgave his debt. The servant no longer had any obligation to repay it. He no longer had reason to fear his master's wrath or punishment. His relationship with his master changed from discord to peace. That is a picture of forgiveness.

The second part of that same parable illustrates unforgiveness. Although the second servant requested mercy, the first servant refused and had him thrown in prison. There was no debt cancellation. There was no reconciliation. That is a picture of unforgiveness.

Some readers may object, saying, "But in some cases there is no reconciliation simply because the offending party does not desire reconciliation. I might forgive someone who never admits that he has sinned against me, or who never requests my forgiveness, and who doesn't care if we are reconciled."

I think that is often true concerning small offenses. We may graciously overlook small offenses, and so we should most of the time, reminding ourselves, "If people knew better, they'd do better." Overly-sensitive people and those who are easily offended have few friends.

Imagine, however, a spouse, or a brother or sister in Christ, saying something to your face that is highly insulting and deeply wounding. Now, just try to pretend as if you never heard the insult, continuing your relationship without making mention of the offense to the offending person. Good luck! You instinctively know, of course, that if there is going to be forgiveness and reconciliation, there must first be confrontation and confession. And because you value your relationship with that person and desire reconciliation, you confront the offender, hoping that he or she will ask for your forgiveness, which you will then grant in order to achieve the desired reconciliation.

Surely every reader will agree that it is vastly easier to forgive someone who asks for it than it is to forgive someone who does not ask for it. And surely every reader can understand the evil of a forgiven person refusing to grant forgiveness to another person who requests it.

All of this is to say that forgiveness, true forgiveness, results in reconciliation. Even in a small offense, if we think we have forgiven someone and yet we find ourselves avoiding the offender, then there exists a breach in our relationship. Since there is obviously no reconciliation, that exposes the underlying unforgiveness.

Continuance in Confrontation

This is precisely why Jesus instructed us not to forgive a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned against us, but rather to confront him or her, with the goal of working towards reconciliation (Matt. 18:15). If that private encounter does not bring the offender to confession (which should then result in forgiveness and reconciliation), the offended party is to solicit the help of one or two others who will join him in again confronting the offender (Matt. 18:16).

If after that second confrontation there is still no repentance on the part of the offender, the matter is to be brought before the entire church (which, incidentally, during the first 300 years of church history would have been a small group that likely met in a house, of which all the members would have likely known the offender and the offended person).

If that third confrontation does not bring the offender to repentance---if he stubbornly refuses to yield to the consensus---Jesus said, "Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer" (Matt. 18:17). That is, excommunicate him from your fellowship and treat him from then on as an unrepentant, unholy outsider. That is not a picture of reconciliation! And that is not a picture of forgiveness either. What would you think of a church that said of one of its unruly members, "We forgave him, and then we excommunicated him"? Would that not sound somewhat contradictory?

So, according to Jesus, the church is not to forgive such people. If we did forgive such people, we would not excommunicate them. Again, forgiveness results in reconciliation. And there can be no reconciliation unless there is confession and repentance. Thus, there can be no forgiveness, generally speaking, without confession and repentance. Forgiveness is predicated upon repentance.

Notice that in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the first servant humbly requested mercy. Then, his master forgave him. The second servant in the parable also requested mercy, but the first servant refused to grant it. That is what so angered the master, and that is what so angers God.

Whom Does God Forgive?

God, of course, does not forgive everyone automatically. He only forgives those who confess their sins and repent. Those who do not confess their sins and repent, He does not forgive. He is not holding us to a higher standard than He holds for Himself. He does not expect us to forgive those whom He does not forgive. He does, however, expect us to forgive everyone who humbly asks for our forgiveness.

Moreover, we are not absolved of all responsibility if a fellow believer sins against us and does not ask for our forgiveness. In such cases we are expected to confront the offender and work towards reconciliation, a reconciliation that can only occur if the offending party humbly admits his sin and requests forgiveness. This is, of course, exactly how God operates. When I sin against Him, He confronts me, and if I yield and confess my sin, He then forgives me. He works towards forgiveness and reconciliation by means of confrontation.

This is precisely why Jesus taught:

If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, "I repent," forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).

Jesus expects us to confront fellow believers who, by sinning against us, cause a breach in our relationship. And He expects us to forgive them if they repent and only if they repent. Again we see that forgiveness, true forgiveness, is predicated upon repentance by the offender.

A Few Objections

But was not Jesus' prayer for the soldiers who crucified Him, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), an example of God forgiving people without them requesting forgiveness? And what about Stephen's prayer for those who stoned him: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60)? It sure seems as if he forgave them without their asking for it.

First, notice that neither of these instances fall in the same category as what we have been considering, namely the issue of confrontation, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation between two believers. In both of these two particular instances just mentioned, believers were showing extraordinary mercy towards unbelievers. Dealing with offending unbelievers is much different than dealing with offending believers. There is often no relationship with them to mend. Even if Jesus or Stephen would have had time and opportunity to confront the unbelievers who were murdering them, how well would their confrontations have been received? Can you imagine Stephen saying to the folks who were throwing stones at him, "You are sinning against me! But I would like to reconcile with you, so let us first meet privately, and if that doesn't bring you to repentance, I'll go and get one or two others, and if that doesn't turn you around, let's meet with the whole church...."?

Jesus undeniably displayed an amazing degree of mercy towards the soldiers who crucified Him, a mercy that was offered due to their ignorance. They did not know Him as being any different from any other criminal whom they crucified.

But what about others who were responsible for Jesus death? Did Jesus not hold Judas' sin against him? Did He ask His Father to forgive Judas? No, concerning Judas Jesus said, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24). Jesus actually prayed for God's wrath to fall upon Judas (see Psalm 109:6-8 with Acts 1:20). Judas was not ignorant of what he had done as were the soldiers who crucified Christ.

And did Jesus pray that God would forgive the Sanhedrin or Pilate? If He did, there is no record of it in the Bible. He told Pilate to his face that he was sinning (John 19:11).

This being so, I do not think, based on the examples of Jesus' prayer for the soldiers or Stephen's prayer for his murderers, we should conclude that God expects us to forgive all unbelievers who sin against us. Certainly we should love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). But it is quite possible to love our enemies without forgiving them. God loves everyone, but generally speaking, He only forgives those who repent. There are quite a few more examples in Scripture of Him not forgiving the unrepentant than there are of Him forgiving the unrepentant.

May I also point out that neither Jesus' prayer for the soldiers nor Stephen's prayer for his murderers guaranteed eternal life for any of their persecutors. At most, Jesus' and Stephen's prayers would have only resulted in God forgiving their persecutors of one specific sin. There is no reason to think that God forgave all the sins of those for whom Jesus or Stephen prayed.

Finally, I must ask: If Stephen had not possessed such a forgiving attitude, would God have been angered and reinstated his formerly-forgiven sins? Would he have been cast into hell---after he was martyred for his faith? That seems unlikely. Had he not prayed his gracious prayer for his murderers, he still would not have been comparable to the unforgiving servant in Jesus' parable who refused to forgive a repentant offender who begged for mercy.

A Few Final Thoughts on Forgiveness

In Revelation we read of some saints "harboring some unforgiveness," and not only were they not denied access to heaven, they were already in heaven!:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also (Rev. 6:9-11).

Note that those who prayed were not rebuked for their desire for revenge upon their murderers. Neither were they told to forgive as they had been forgiven. Their murderers were not brothers and sisters in Christ (of course); nor had they humbled themselves to request forgiveness. These factors must all be considered in order to determine whom God expects us to forgive.

You may recall that Joseph, son of Jacob, did not immediately forgive his brothers who had so grievously sinned against him. Rather, he put them through a degree of agony that brought them to repentance over what they'd done, and then he tested them to ascertain if their remorse and repentance were genuine. Only then did he speak gracious words of forgiveness to them, and only then were they reconciled. What Joseph accomplished for his brothers by not at first forgiving them was good for them. What if he had revealed himself to them during their first visit to Egypt, saying, "I'm Joseph! I'm holding nothing against you! Let's have a party!"? Would they have been brought to a place of repentance? Or would they have turned to each other with smiles and exclaimed, "Wow! Crime does pay!"?

The father of the prodigal son in Jesus' parable by the same name is certainly a good example of one who forgave. But what would his reaction have been had his wayward son returned with a girl in each arm and a bottle of whiskey in each hand, saying with a slur, "Hey my old man, I'm a little low on cash! Could you lend your fun-loving son a few bucks?" Kill the fattened calf? I doubt it.

Finally, it seems to me that forgiving and being forgiven is an issue between two parties, an offender and one who has been offended. I can't forgive someone for his sin against you, nor should I. If I do, I unjustly side with your offender against you. Imagine that I see someone strike you to the ground and then kick you until you are unconscious. Imagine coming to consciousness for a moment and hearing me say to your attacker, "I forgive you for what you just did, because Jesus commanded me to forgive everyone. I will not let what you did stand between us. I will not hold you accountable for what you have done, nor will I testify against you in court. I will treat you as if this never happened." You would consider my act of "forgiveness" towards your attacker to be a sin against you. And so you should.

It is absurd to say, as some do, that we as Christians must "forgive everyone, even Adolf Hitler." Adolf Hitler did not sin against me, so I have nothing for which to forgive him. If I did declare that I had forgiven him, what kind of a message would that send to all who suffered and died because of his evil? May I add that it seems quite unlikely that God forgave Adolf Hitler, so why would He expect me to do what He would not do?

Over the past thirty years, I've heard a lot of sermons about forgiveness that are based on a few scriptures, sermons which I think sometimes leave people worse off than they were before the sermon started. They only scratch the surface, and they end up being unbalanced in regard to everything Scripture has to say. This article is certainly not the final word on the subject, but I hoped to go a little deeper, just to provoke all of us to think. As always, I welcome your thoughtful and kind feedback, and I read every response. (Although please don't hold me to reply, as I am swimming in emails as usual).

Source: Heaven's Family © 2013 by David Servant

A Covenant of Forgiveness

By James Henderson

How do you forgive someone and go on with your life? It is not easy, is it?

Some cultures have customs of forgiveness. For example, the Masai in Tanzania perform an osotua, a word meaning "covenant."

In his inspirational book, Christianity Rediscovered, Vincent Donovan relates how osotua works. If a sin has occurred between families within a community, it can be disastrous to the unity of the nomadic clan. It may threaten why they came together in the first place.

It is imperative that both the offending and offended parties be brought back together in an act of forgiveness. So the community prepares a meal, and both families must bring food. The offended must accept and eat the food prepared by the offender, and vice versa. The food is called "holy food."

The idea is that when the food is eaten, forgiveness comes, and a new osotua begins.

Startling, isn't it? What a simple idea. Have you shared holy food with someone you don't like or whom you have offended? What about Communion? As you take Communion together, can a new covenant of forgiveness begin between you and someone whom you've offended or who has offended you? Or will you continue to carry the same resentment from holy meal to holy meal?

Donovan notes of the Masai custom, "A new testament of forgiveness is brought about by an exchange of holy food. What can one say?"

What a blessing when in our Lord and Savior we can say the same.

© 2016 Grace Communion International. All rights reserved.

Confession and Forgiveness of Sins

by Pete Briscoe

What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Oh, precious is the flow, That makes me white as snow,
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
- Robert Lowry (1876)

Every once in a while, Hollywood nails it with gripping honesty about eternal truth. It happened a while ago on TV's "ER." A retired police officer is dying from cancer. Nearing his end, he calls a chaplain into his room, confessing his long-held guilt over allowing a man he knew was innocent to be framed, convicted, and executed.

Officer: "How can I even hope for forgiveness?"

Chaplain: "I think sometimes it's easier to feel guilty than forgiven."

Officer: "Which means what?"

Chaplain: "That maybe your guilt over his death has become your reason for living. Maybe you need a new reason to go on."

Officer: "I don't want to go on. Can't you see I'm dying? The only thing that's holding me back is that I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what comes next... You tell me. Is atonement possible? What does God want from me?"

Chaplain: "I think it's up to each one of us to interpret for ourselves what God wants."

Officer, staring at her in bewilderment: "So people can do anything. They can rape and they can murder and they can steal all in the name of God and it's okay? ...All I'm hearing is some new age 'God is love have it your way' crap. No, I don't have time for this now."

Chaplain: "Well, you don't understand."

Officer: "No, YOU don't understand. I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell."

Chaplain in a familiar tone of condescension disguised as understanding: "I hear that you're frustrated but you need to ask yourself... "

Officer: "No I don't need to ask myself anything. I need answers, and all of your questions and all of your uncertainty are only making things worse."

Chaplain: "I know you're upset."

Officer: "God, I need someone who'll look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness because I'm running out of time."

Howard Hendricks once said, "In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering." Today, may God use us in any way He sees fit to share the simple, powerful heart of the Gospel.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Gracious Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of Your Spirit, use my actions and my words to clearly communicate Your truth to desperate souls today. Amen.

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

Seven Things to Remember When You're Struggling to Forgive

by Lori Hatcher

I didn't know my neighbor's name until the day he murdered my uncle.

Early one Tuesday morning, a neighborhood feud between the two men escalated into a firefight. Courtroom testimony told us that the neighbor kicked down my uncle's front door and methodically shot him--twice in the ankles, twice in the knees, and once in the heart.

And he never spent a night in jail.

Freed on bond because he was an "upstanding citizen," the court cleared him of all charges on the basis of self-defense. He went back to his wife, his home, and his job while our family picked up the pieces. We shampooed the blood from the carpet, but nothing could cleanse the horror from our minds.

On morning walks with my young daughter, I avoided the street where my uncle's murderer lived. Only a few blocks from my own, I couldn't bear to see the evidence of life as usual at his house. It stood in stark contrast to the shuttered windows and empty driveway of my uncle's. Only a strip of grass separated their property, but an eternity separated their souls.

After a few months I resumed my familiar route, which led me past his house. Sometimes I would see him leaving for work or returning home. Bitterness began to grow in my heart. What right does he have, I asked myself angrily, to live as though nothing happened? Doesn't it matter that he killed a man? Why should he go about his daily life while my uncle will never laugh, love, work, or play again?

Bitterness, along with its cousins, hate and anger, began to grow deep roots and sprout poisonous fruit in my heart.

I hope your story doesn't include a murderer who escaped justice, but you probably have people in your life who have sinned against you. A person who molested you or someone you love, an abusive or neglectful parent, an unfaithful spouse, or a friend. If we live long enough, we can acquire an impressive collection of hurts that can leave us bitter and angry.

My story came to a head late one night about six months after my uncle's death. Unable to sleep because of the thoughts swirling in my brain, I sought comfort in the Scriptures. I opened my Bible to the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. As I read the verses describing the rich man's torment, I realized that while my uncle's murderer had escaped his earthly punishment, no fast-talking lawyer would ever be able to protect him from the justice he would face in eternity.

Don't begrudge him his life here on earth, I sensed the Lord saying. It may be the only heaven he ever knows...

That's fine with me, I thought. He deserves to spend eternity in hell.

"But if it wasn't for the grace of God," the Holy Spirit whispered, "this would also be true of you."

Suddenly, instead of bitterness and resentment, I felt an overwhelming sense of pity for this man--this man who so desperately needed a Savior--just like I had.

"Tell him," the Lord said. "Tell him that 'very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us'" (Romans 5:7-8).

Because of safety concerns, I knew I couldn't just knock on his door and tell him about Christ, so I did the next best thing. I shared my heart in a letter. I expressed the pain his actions had caused our family. I told him how bitterness had stolen my joy and disturbed my nights. I described how God had saved me from an equally sinful nature, and how he extends this forgiveness to all. And I offered my own forgiveness. "Because God has forgiven me," I wrote, "I forgive you."

I'll probably never know if my uncle's murderer received God's gift of salvation, but that's not my responsibility. My responsibility was to tell him. What he did from there is between him and God.

I still sometimes feel angry and bitter, but now when I walk past his house, I pray for him. And I sincerely hope, one day, my prayers will set him free.

You may also be struggling with bitterness. You may wonder how you can forgive someone who has sinned against you or someone you love. From my experience and the Bible, I'd like to share seven things to remember when you're struggling to forgive.

Forgiveness doesn't deny that the offense happened, nor does it absolve the person of the guilt associated with the act. We can and should hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions, but we ultimately release our right to revenge to God.

Bitterness and unforgiveness hurt us more than the one who has sinned against us.

Lee Strobel said, "Acrid bitterness inevitably seeps into the lives of people who harbor grudges and suppress anger, and bitterness is always a poison. It keeps your pain alive instead of letting you deal with it and get beyond it. Bitterness sentences you to relive the hurt over and over." A Bantou proverb agrees, telling us, "The bitter heart eats his owner."

Unforgiveness hinders our prayers.

In Psalm 66:18, the psalmist tells us, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." To cherish means to hold something dear, which is a strange way to describe what we do with sin. But when we hold onto something tightly and refuse to let it go, we are, indeed, cherishing it. By stubbornly clinging to anger, hurt, and bitterness, we make a home for the very emotions that can destroy us.

Every sin is offensive to God, even our own.

It's easy to be self-righteous when someone has sinned against us. "I'd never do anything like that," we tell ourselves, but Scripture tells us differently. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23 says. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Because God's standard is perfection, none of us can please God on our own.

In God's eyes, we're just as lost as the murderer on death row and just as desperately in need of a Savior. When we begin to see our sin as God sees it, we acknowledge that we have no righteousness of our own in which to stand. It is only God's mercy that has kept us from committing the horrible sins others have committed.

Unforgiveness hinders God's desire to forgive us.

If we, who have no righteousness of our own, withhold forgiveness from another, we elevate ourselves above God, who freely extends forgiveness to all who ask for it in sincerity and truth. The Lord's Prayer in Luke 11 tells us that God's forgiveness hinges on our willingness to forgive others: "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us."

God's mercy and forgiveness extends to us and those who sin against us.

Psalm 103:10-14 tells us, "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions for us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust."

It is only when we fully grasp the depths of our own sin and the mercy God extends to us that we are able to extend forgiveness to others. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God, through Christ, forgave us," the Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:32.

We can trust God's sovereignty and justice.

We live in a fallen world, and sin and Satan have wrapped their poisonous tentacles around everything good. But it won't always be this way. One day, God will right every wrong, punish every unrepentant sinner, and call every wicked soul into account. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:19, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

We cannot experience the abundant life God has for us if we're carrying stones of bitterness and unforgiveness around. They weigh us down, slow our steps, and steal our joy.

It's been more than 20 years since the first time I forgave my uncle's murderer. I say "the first time," because I've had to forgive him again and again, every time the feelings of anger and bitterness return. To combat these thoughts, I picture myself carrying my burden of unforgiveness to the cross of Jesus Christ and leaving it there, trusting him to take it away.

If you're struggling to forgive someone today, don't try to do it in your own strength. Do it in Jesus' name. Ask him to give you the power to forgive, and then step out in faith to do it. You'll be very glad you did. I'll be praying for you today.

About The Author:

Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher's 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori's goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. ...

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

All I Have to Offer

by Dr. Gary Chapman

Mercy triumphs over judgment!
- James 2:13

Immaculée Ilibagiza was in her early twenties when tribal tensions exploded in her home country of Rwanda. Nearly a million Rwandans were killed during one hundred days of horror. Ilibagiza survived by hiding in a tiny bathroom with eight other women. When the killing finally ceased, she had lost nearly all her family.

Ilibagiza later had the opportunity to meet Felicien, the leader of the gang that killed her mother and brother. Felicien looked at Ilibagiza and met her eyes with shame. Then the young woman said what she had come to say: "I forgive you."

As Ilibagiza writes, "My heart eased immediately, and I saw the tension release in Felicien's shoulders." The guards led him back to his cell. The man who had arrested Felicien asked Ilibagiza how she could respond that way. Ilibagiza answered, "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."

Ilibagiza's words reflect the Christlike choice to forgive. It was a choice because she had to let her desire for love win out over her desire for justice. Felicien never verbalized a response to Ilibagiza's offer of forgiveness, but Ilibagiza's spirit was free of anger. She left her concern for justice in the hands of God and government. She refused to seek revenge.

Today, Immaculée Ilibagiza travels around the world with her message of forgiveness. She has cared for Rwandan children orphaned in the genocide and worked with the United Nations to bring healing to her country. Only Christ's love can take energy that might be spent in anger and turn it into energy spent in love.

Prayer

Lord, I want to enjoy the freedom of forgiving others.

About The Author:

Dr. Gary Chapman is the beloved best-selling author of The Five Love Languages and Love as a Way of Life. For more information, click here.

Source: Living Love Devotional

Confront, Forgive, and Forget

by Rick Renner

...If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. - Luke 17:3

It is difficult for most people to confront someone else regarding an offense, but sometimes confrontation is necessary. Ignoring confrontation is often what causes bad feelings to turn inward and fester into something much worse. Those ugly feelings can sit in the pit of a person's stomach, churning away until he becomes so upset that he can hardly see straight.

Usually it's better to kindly say what you feel and get over it than to let those raw emotions turn into an ugly monster, just waiting to crawl out at an opportune moment and attack its victim. That is frequently what happens when you allow ugly emotions to go unchecked. Confrontation may be uncomfortable, but it's a lot less painful than having to apologize later for erupting in a fit of flesh like a volcano that spews destructive lava all over its surroundings.

This is exactly why Jesus said, "...If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Luke 17:3). The word "trespass" is the Greek word hamartano, which means to violate a rule; to cross a line; to commit a grievance; or to miss the mark. By using this word, the Bible teaches you what to do when someone has violated you, crossed a line he shouldn't have crossed, committed what you perceive to be a grievance against you, or seriously missed the mark of what you expected of that person: You are to "rebuke" that person for what he did.

The word "rebuke" is the Greek word epitimao, which in this case means to speak frankly, hon­estly, and politely as you tell a person how you feel that he has wronged you. This doesn't mean you have to speak to him like he's a devil; it just means you need to directly and honestly confront him.

This issue of honesty is a big one in the Body of Christ. Many believers are dishonest about what they really think and feel. Inside they seethe with anger toward someone about a perceived offense. Yet on the outside, they smile and pretend as if everything is all right. This dishonesty divides believers and keeps God's power from freely flowing between members of the Body of Christ.

Believers put themselves on dangerous territory when they harbor hidden disagreements or secret petty grievances against other people, yet go around smiling and acting as if everything is all right. They're not just being dishonest - they're engaging in outright lying and deception!

When you refuse to confront an offense, you are just as wrong as the one who violated your rights and stepped over the line. Jesus said, "...If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him..." (Luke 17:3). That means if you are going to be mature in your relationships, you must learn how to confront others when you feel they have wronged you. It may be difficult to do that, but it's a lot less painful and leaves less scars than does a soul that is filled with bitterness and resentment.

When you have to confront someone regarding an offense that you perceive he has commit­ted against you, I recommend that you take the following three steps:

STEP #1:

Don't confront anyone until you've first made it a matter of prayer.

Prayer resolves a lot of problems by itself. There have been times in my own life when I've been upset with someone, only to discover after getting into the Presence of God and praying about the matter that my own attitude was uglier than the actions of the one who wronged me. Once I rec­ognized my own sinful condition, I couldn't hold a thing against the other person anymore; I just wanted to get my own heart right before God.

Prayer will put you in a position where God can speak to your own heart. After praying, if you still sense that you are supposed to confront the other person, make sure you pray for that person first. The Spirit of God may give you a strategy regarding what to say, as well as when and how to say it.

Believe me, taking directions from the Holy Spirit about how to confront someone will only help you. Confrontation without prayer is like barging into the middle of the fray with no preparation. Therefore, let prayer be a time of spiritual fine-tuning as you prepare to do what you need to do.

As you pray, spend a few minutes thanking God for your offender. This will help bring you to a new level so you can deal with the issue at hand in the right spirit. Remember the good things that person has done. Take time to reflect on all the enjoyable moments you've had with him and all the benefits you've gained in life as a result of that relationship. It's difficult to remain angry at someone when you are thanking God for him at the same time!

STEP #2:

Don't confront anyone with a judgmental attitude.

We've all made mistakes - and that includes you! So assume that your offender would not deliberately hurt or offend you. Take a positive position about the other person.

When you do finally sit down to talk with the person who offended you, start the conversa­tion by assuring him that you know he didn't intend to do what he did. Tell him that somehow the devil got into the middle of your relationship with him through his actions - and now you want to get the devil back out of the relationship as you get your heart right with him. This immediately removes any sense of an accusatory spirit and puts the spotlight on the devil instead of on that per­son. The issues will still be dealt with, but from a different perspective.

Starting from this approach is much more beneficial than taking a defensive approach that treats the other person as if he were your adversary. Remember, that person is not your enemy; he isn't on the other side of the line, fighting a battle against you. Your relationship may be going through some rough times right now, but you still need to view the two of you as being on the same side. The pur­pose of this time of confrontation is not to prove how wrong the other person is; it is to learn how to work together better and how to keep the channel of communication open and in the light.

STEP #3:

Remember that you, too, have been offensive in the past.

Never forget that you've probably offended people in the past. You didn't intend to do it. You didn't even know you did it until the person later told you. You were probably embarrassed or sad when you heard how the devil had used some statement you innocently made to leave a wrong impression.

When you were in this type of situation, didn't you want the person you had offended to tell you the truth rather than to walk around harboring bad feelings about you? Weren't you glad when that lie of the devil was exposed and your relationship was made right again? Weren't you thankful for the opportunity to put things right with that other person?

So when someone offends you, remember that you've stood in his shoes in the past. Were you forgiven at that time? Were you shown mercy? Now it's time for you to show the same forgiveness and mercy to someone else that has previously been shown to you.

If you still feel the need to confront the person who offended you after following these three steps, you should now be able to do it with the right attitude. You have prayed about the matter; you have been in the Presence of the Lord. Now your heart is free, liberated from negative feelings and atti­tudes toward that person. You are finally in a position to go to him or her in a spirit of love and rec­onciliation instead of in a spirit of accusation. As Jesus said, "...if he repent, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).

The word "forgive" is the Greek word aphiemi. It means to set free; to let go; to release; to dis­charge; or to liberate completely. It was used in a secular sense in New Testament times in reference to canceling a debt or releasing someone from the obligation of a contract, a commitment, or promise. Thus, it means to forfeit any right to hold a person captive to a previous commitment or wrong he has committed. In essence, the word "forgive" - the Greek word aphiemi - is the picture of totally free­ing and releasing someone. A modern paraphrase of this Greek word would simply be to let it go!

This means you and I don't have the privilege of holding people hostage to their past actions if they repent and ask us to forgive them. If they sincerely seek forgiveness for offending us, we are obligated to "let it go." If your offender repents and sincerely asks for forgiveness, Jesus said you are to put away the offense and no longer hold on to it. You must release those ugly feelings you've held against that person. You have to let it go!

• So are you able to let go of the offense that someone has committed against you?

• Are you able to put away that offense once and for all instead of dragging it up again and again?

Just as God has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), you must now decide that this person is freed in regard to that past offense. Once you forgive him, you cannot drag up the offense again and again. You have released and liberated him completely from that sin. Therefore, you never have the right or privilege to pull out that offense later and use it against him. It is gone!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, please help me have the courage to lovingly speak to those who have sinned against me. Help me know how to tell them what they did wrong and kindly ask them not to do it again. If they repent and say they are sorry, please help me forgive them for what they did and then release them completely from that grievance, never to bring it up again. Help me put that offense out of my mind forever, just as You have done so many times for me!

I pray this in Jesus' name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am courageous, bold, and loving in the way I confront people who have sinned against me. I do not hold bitterness inside my heart; instead, I politely speak to those who have wronged me so my heart can stay free and they can learn from the experience. God's Spirit is changing me and helping me to speak to my offenders from a gracious, help­ful spirit, rather than from a spirit that is bitter and critical. Therefore, the end result of each difficult situation is reconciliation and peace instead of division and discord!

I declare this by faith in Jesus' name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

1. Can you think of a time when someone truly forgave you for something wrong you did to him or her? When that person forgave you, what effect did this gen­uine forgiveness have on your life?

2. Are you able to forgive others as you have been forgiven, or do you find that you keep reaching into the past to try to drag up those past issues again and again?

3. Who is it that you need to confront and forgive right now? Why not spend sometime in prayer and get the heart of God for this situation so you can go to that per­son in the spirit of Jesus and make things right in your relationship with him or her?

Source: Sparkling Gems from the Greek

Do We Have to Forgive Those Who Sin against Us if They Don't Repent?

by Cindi McMenamin

You've been hurt. And the person who hurt you doesn't appear to be sorry. That often makes it difficult to forgive that person, doesn't it?

We often believe those who have hurt us must apologize, express their remorse, and ask for our forgiveness in order to be forgiven. Or, we expect them to somehow make up for the hurt they have caused us. Yet in many cases there is nothing your offender can do to make up for the pain he or she has caused you. The damage has been done. But you and I are commended to forgive whether the other person asks for it or not. Whether the other person is remorseful or not. Whether the other person deserves it or not.

Having ministered to women for more than 30 years, I've seen how withholding forgiveness toward another can negatively affect one's spiritual life and relationships. On the other hand, I've also seen how it frees a person to love and live more fully.

To forgive someone who has hurt you doesn't mean you're letting that person off the hook. It doesn't mean you're excusing that person for their offenses. It doesn't even mean you're completely over what they've done to you. It simply means you are being obedient to God and letting yourself off of their emotional hook. When we admit that our offense was real, it hurt, and it's inexcusable but so is our offense to God, we can forgive another person just as God has forgiven us.

Here are three reasons extending forgiveness is not contingent upon our offender's remorse or repentance.

1. We forgive because God commands it, not because another person requests or deserves it.

If you are waiting for your offender to show remorse and apologize for the offense, that remorse might never happen and that apology might never come. Even if it did, your offender will never be able to undo the hurt he or she caused you. If an apology by the offender were necessary in order for you to forgive, then you would never be able to forgive someone who has died and never come clean with you? We are commanded to forgive an offender regardless of that person's remorse or efforts to gain our forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to someone because of how God has unreservedly forgiven you. In fact, think of your forgiveness toward your offender as a gift to God, not necessarily the other person.

2. We forgive because God has forgiven us, even when we didn't deserve it.

The New Testament tells us to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). When Jesus went to the cross for you, He forgave your sins before you ever asked for His forgiveness (Romans 5:8). He wants you to model that same grace and forgiveness to others, regardless of the measure of pain they have inflicted upon you.

Colossians 3:12-13 exhorts believers to be "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."

Every one of us has offended, betrayed, or hurt God in some way or another. Yet He has freely and generously forgiven us. The debt of gratitude we owe Him is paid out as we freely and generously forgive others.

3. We forgive to move forward personally and spiritually.

When we refuse to forgive another person, we are letting their offense against us determine how we live, and therefore we are allowing them and their offense to continue to control us. A lack of forgiveness leads to bitterness and an inability to move beyond the offense. Don't allow yourself to become emotionally or spiritually stuck due to how you were hurt. Forgive your offender as a way of moving on and continuing to grow personally and spiritually.

In my book, 'When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts', I address the healing power of releasing yourself through forgiveness. We remain in chains of emotional bondage to those we refuse to forgive. By withholding forgiveness we are saying "You will never be able to make this right." But what we are ultimately saying is: "I will always hold onto this pain." That is where you don't want to be... stuck in a place of pain. When you're stuck like that you end up living with the burden of bitterness. Instead, you can live freely by freely forgiving.

Are you still in chains to the person who has hurt you? Would you like to be free from the bitterness that is binding you and preventing you from moving forward in your life? Take some time right now to admit to God that you have been hurt. Go ahead and acknowledge to the Lord that the person who hurt you owes you for what they have done to you. Then confess any desires for revenge you may have felt, and pray along these lines:

Lord, I choose to forgive (name of person) for (list what the person did that hurt you) even though it made me feel (painful memories or feelings).

Whether your offender is sorry or not, whether he ever expresses remorse or not, your decision to release him of his offense and debt to you will release you from your prison of bitterness and enable you to move forward.

About The Author:

Cindi McMenamin helps women and couples deal with the struggles of life through her books, 'When Women Walk Alone' , 'When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts', 'When Couples Walk Together' and 'When God Sees Your Tears'. For more on her books, national speaking ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage or parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Source: Christianity.com

Forgiven And Forgiving!

by Pastor Linton Smith

A few weeks ago the cover of a Time Magazine caught my eye.

It featured a photograph of two masked people and the words,

WHY THEY HATE EACH OTHER.

The article in the magazine traced the hatred back almost 1500 years!

I have not named the people the article was about because they are no exception.

Many other peoples, families and individuals hate each other just as fiercely.

What a different place our world would be if people.. if we.. forgave each other!

Alexander Pope wrote, "To err is human; to forgive is divine."

How true that is. Forgiveness is difficult. To forgive we need divine help. And that help is available – from Jesus.

He practised forgiveness. He paid the price for our forgiveness, and He inspires and empowers us to forgive. He can help us!

JESUS PRACTISED FORGIVENESS.

Jesus amazes me. He is so forgiving.

I think of Judas. Jesus knew this man was plotting to betray him. If we had been in Jesus’ shoes I suggest we would have avoided this man.. and been barely civil to him when we could not avoid him..

What did Jesus do? He took a basin and a towel.. and washed the feet of his friends. And He included Judas!

And then.. when Jesus was crucified.. we are told..

Luke 23:32-34.. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Peter was there. He later described how Jesus behaved..

1 Peter 2:23.. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Jesus did not retaliate. Did not seek revenge.. but entrusted Himself to God the Father who judges justly.

He did just what the Apostle Paul exhorts us to do..

Romans 12:19-21.. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Jesus did not retaliate. He practised forgiveness!

JESUS PAID THE PRICE FOR OUR FORGIVENESS.

A 1950’s song speaks of God’s willingness to forgive..

He can touch a tree and turn the leaves to gold;

He knows every lie that you and I have told.

Though it makes him sad to see the way we live,

He'll always say, "I forgive, I forgive."

Is that true? No. It is a half truth. It makes forgiveness sound easy and cheap. And it is not!

The night before He died on the cross Jesus shared a meal with His friends.

In Matthew 26:27,28 we read.. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Forgiveness of our sins came at a great cost. Jesus suffered and died and shed His blood on the cross.. to pay the price for our forgiveness.

Peter puts it like this..

1 Peter 2:24.. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

He bore our sins in His body on the tree.. on the cross. He took our place.

In Hebrews 9:27,28 we read.. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people..

Christ was sacrificed once.. to take away the sins of many people. The sacrifice had to be made. The price had to be paid.

God did not wink at our sins and say.. that is Okay.. I let you off.. no.. He is a just God… the penalty for sin must be paid.. and paid it was.. by Jesus.

And because it was.. the Apostle Paul can say..

Acts 13:38.. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Yes.. today.. we can be forgiven.. God will forgive us.. when we come to Him sorry for our sin and willing to change.. and confess our sin.. God will say to us, I forgive, I forgive!

Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness.

JESUS INSPIRES AND EMPOWERS US TO FORGIVE.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray. He taught them a model prayer.. we call it The Lord’s Prayer. One of the things He taught us was this..

Luke 11:2,4.. When you pray, say: ‘Father.. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’

What a challenge that is. When we pray like that we link our plea for God to forgive us with our own willingness to forgive others.

Jesus wants His forgiven people to be forgiving people.

In Ephesians 4:32 Paul puts it like this.. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

And the Apostle Peter puts it like this..

1 Peter 3:9.. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

We may not feel that we can suddenly start having pleasant feelings toward a person who has hurt us badly, but there is something we can do.

We can decide not to hold a grudge.. not to hit back.. not to retaliate.. but to behave like Jesus.. and respond as He did.. with blessing. Remember how He prayed for those who crucified Him.. Father, forgive them..

One of the most used examples of forgiveness is still the best..

Corrie ten Boom had suffered the horrors of a concentration camp during World War 2. After the war she was speaking at churches in Germany. She writes..

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck… He came to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.. to think as you say, He has washed my sins away.” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people.. the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. [Hiding Place p220].

Jesus inspired her to forgive.. and empowered her to forgive.

Let’s allow Him to inspire and empower us to forgive.

What a difference it will make.. to us.. and those we forgive!

Ponder the way He practiced forgiveness. See Him on that cross.. refusing to retaliate.. but praying.. Father, forgive them..

Ponder the way He paid the price for our forgiveness. He bore your sins and mine in His body on the tree.. the penalty of our sin has been paid.. and now.. God will forgive us.. as we come to Him.. sorry.. willing to change.. and confess our sin!

Ponder the way Jesus inspires and empowers us to forgive. If we are struggling with hurt and pain.. from long ago.. or something recent..

right now.. let’s tell Jesus about it.. and ask Him for His help. He will help us to let go of these feelings and empower us to respond with kindness .. just as he did Corrie ten Boom! 

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