Monday, February 23, 2009
Having a Heart of Forgiveness (2)
Forgiveness is truly one of the most difficult things God commands His people to do. How many people have difficulty forgiving when they’ve been wronged or hurt? When there is no forgiveness, there can be no fellowship like God intended Christians to enjoy (Eph. 4:31-32). Worse, when there is no forgiveness, the work of the Lord is hindered and souls are at stake. (Matt. 6:12ff) Oh, how Christians need to be willing to have a heart that truly forgives!
Biblically speaking, forgiveness involves two parties. There is to be an acknowledgement of sin for true forgiveness to take place. (cf. Psalm 51:3, 16-17) However, it is also Biblical and right to say that the will to forgive must be present, even when sin is not acknowledged. Our Lord showed a will to forgive even while His enemies nailed Him to the cross (Luke 23:34), but true forgiveness (the condition in which the relationship between Jesus and His executioners was finally mended) did not take place until their sin was acknowledged (cf. Acts 2:36-38).
Kindness – Even if sin is not acknowledged, Christians are to have the will to forgive, and this will expresses itself in kindness. God’s kindness is seen in the fact that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Eph. 2:7; Rom. 5:8). God didn’t wait to be kind until you and I acknowledged our sin before Him. He showed kindness when He blessed us with His only Son (John 3:16). When Christians have been wronged, we are not to wait until sin is acknowledged to be kind. Kindness is evidence of a heart that knows true forgiveness!
Tenderheartedness – Not only is the forgiving heart kind, but it is tender and sympathetic to the needs of others. Especially is this true when forgiveness must take place. It is humbling to forgive, but it is more humbling to ask for forgiveness from someone we’ve wronged. When someone asks for forgiveness, they are making themselves extremely vulnerable, and a tender heart is needed to respond properly. What a blessing when Christians truly possess a tender heart.
Covering of sin – Paul concludes these two verses by telling Christians to forgive, “even as God in Christ forgave you.” But how does God forgive? God forgives completely, freely, and quickly. Most of all, He promises NOT to dwell on our forgiven sins: “I will remember them no more” (Heb. 8:12). Thus, when Christians possess a forgiving heart, they will choose not to dwell on sin. Forgiveness “covers up” sin so that what has been forgiven is not continually brought back to our remembrance (Psalm 32:1-2). A heart that truly forgives will not go about mentioning the offense in the presence of others, nor will it continually bring up that offense before the offender. If God chooses not dwell on our past sins, how much more should we choose to cover those offenses that have been forgiven?
I wonder truly how many pews in the Lord’s church are often filled with bitter, angry people who stubbornly declare, “I’ll never forgive…” or, “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” All the while the words of Jesus clamor for our attention: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:34-35). One writer has so beautifully said, “An unforgiving heart is worse than any cancer because it eats away our very souls.” Conversely, a forgiving heart is better than any balm of healing because it restores in kindness and tenderness with a will to cover a multitude of sins.” Brethren, let’s pray for more forgiving hearts in the church of Jesus Christ!