Reconciliation – Part 4 – Forgiveness Must Come In
Ephesians 4:30-32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
When we consider reconciliation we must keep in mind that there must be forgiveness. When there are conflicts what often happens is that bitterness comes in. The writer of the Hebrews explicitly tells us that we should not fail the grace of God by allowing a root of bitterness to spring up. The reason why is because bitterness to the soul or spirit is like poison to the body. It will kill us. How many churches have been split, ministries stopped and people of God hindered because of bitterness of spirit?
The only antidote to this poison is forgiveness. Yet, if we are honest, the one thing that we do not want to do is to forgive. Somehow we sense a kind of morbid pleasure and satisfaction by having bitterness towards the one who offended us, we do not feel like forgiving that person. How often our emotions have played a major role in our Christian life in what we do or not do.
One thing that we must understand at the outset is that forgiveness is not based upon how we feel, but on being obedient to the Lord. We are commanded to forgive.
In Matthew 18: 21-35 Jesus talks about perpetual forgiveness. Peter asked the question: “How many times must I forgive my brother, seven times?”
Jesus responded and said, “Seventy times seven.” In other words, we need to have perpetual forgiveness, and yet so often we do not feel like forgiving.
In Luke 17 Jesus brings some additional teaching to Matthew 18 with something similar to contemplate. He told the disciples that if a brother comes seven times in a day and asks your forgiveness – to forgive him. I am sure that we would not feel like doing so, question it, as we would probably wonder how genuine his asking for forgiveness really is. However, that is not for us to judge. We are simply to forgive, and entrust it all to God.
It was at this point the disciples said: “Lord increase our faith.” It would seem that the disciples thought that what they needed was more faith, but that wasn’t it at all. What they needed was obedience. They were to forgive. It is through obedience that our faith grows.
Then Jesus went on to tell a parable about a servant who was out in the field all day working, sweating, thirsty and tired. When he came back home what did the master do? He told the servant that before he eats, drinks and takes it easy that he was to fulfill his duties to the master. Does his master thank him? No, because we are told that this was the servant’s duty. This is what he should be doing.
However, the point is this: I am sure that the servant did not feel like taking care of his master after having worked in the field all day. He was tired and hungry and he wanted to rest. This is what he felt, but what he had to do was another thing. He had to prepare for the master. He had to obey!
It is in this context that Jesus is talking about forgiving our brother. But, we say, we do not feel like it. Forgiveness is not based on how we feel, but upon obedience to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an act of our will.
When we obey the Lord, whether we feel like it or not, we will find that ‘in time’ our feelings will catch up to the Lord. The problem in the Christian life is that so much of what we do, or do not do, is based upon how we feel. We cannot allow feelings to lead us; instead we must be led by our ‘will’ to obey the Lord. Genuine forgiveness means several things.
It means that I will not raise the issue again; whatever the issue or the thing is that I am to forgive. We may say we forgive, but we are constantly raising the same issues again and again.
When we forgive it means that we will not tell a third party. Yet, often this is what takes place. We say that we forgive, but then we are constantly repeating it to a third party.
When we forgive it also means that we will not dwell on the issue. This is where the battle is; it’s in our minds. When the issues do come back into our minds then we need to deal with them quickly and severely, to make them obedient to the words of Christ. After a time we will find that they do not come back.
The Lord is our example. When it is hard to forgive, just take a look at the cross and see how much the Lord forgave us. When He forgives – He does not bring it back up to us, but removes it as far as the East is from the West. He forgets about it. Let us do the same. Life is too short for anything less. May God work in us all.