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Do Yourself a Favor - Be Forgiving

How devastating it would be to hear the Lord Jesus say, "Your Father will not forgive your transgressions."  It would mean that God remembered all of the offenses you had committed against Him, and His wrath would be fully kindled as a consuming fire.  In the Judgment, Jesus would call on you to account for every sin, and you would have no answer to excuse yourself from any of them.  There would be no savior, advocate, mediator, or redeemer to intercede for you or plead your case.  You would be standing alone in a certain, losing cause.  The result would be eternal separation from God, eternal punishment, and the eternal loss of your soul.

This fearsome specter will be a terrible reality for all of those who reject Christ, but it will also be the fate of those who do not meet a certain condition of forgiveness in Jesus.  Notice the Lord's words in the following passages of Scripture:

Matthew 6:14-15 -- 14"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  15But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

Mark 11:25-26 -- 25"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  26But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."

This means that there will be many grudge-holders in hell for eternity. Those who store up bitterness and anger against others who have offended them are only storing up condemnation for themselves.  They judge themselves to be unworthy of God's forgiveness by their own unwillingness to forgive.

Because this is true, there is no more important application of the "golden rule" than in the matter of forgiveness.  In Luke 6:31, Jesus said, "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way."  This means that if you want to receive forgiveness not only from other people but more importantly from God, then you must be forgiving yourself.  The Lord has said, "By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:2).

The Lord instructs us not only concerning our willingness to forgive but also the quantity and quality of our forgiveness. For example, when Peter asked Jesus whether forgiving a brother seven times was enough, Jesus said, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:21-22). The Lord's meaning is not a literal limit of 490 times, but rather He is indicating that our capacity for forgiveness should be unlimited.  Consider His words in Luke 17:3-4:

3"Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

This is a demanding standard, but it is no higher than the standard the Lord imposes on Himself.  His unlimited capacity for forgiveness is the basis of our forgiveness toward one another, just as Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."  Moreover, the quality of God's forgiveness is defined by a complete eradication of the memory of our sins, and the same should be true for us.  God says, "I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more" (Heb. 8:12).  This standard leaves no place for lingering bitterness, anger, and blame.  Forgiving others is not merely a matter of saying, "I forgive you," but rather it is a determination to let go of the wrong and never mention it again.

Long ago, a poet rightly said, "To err is human; to forgive, divine."  When we become followers of Christ, we are to "become partakers of the divine nature" (2Pet. 1:4), which includes the propensity of forgiveness.  Whereas men tend to be proud, petty, and vindictive, God's nature is full of grace, mercy, and pity.  Therefore, let us be imitators of God by practicing genuine forgiveness toward others. When we do so, we do ourselves a great favor.  Not only do we allow God to transform us from small, angry, bitter souls into joyful children of God, but we also ensure that God will forgive us in Christ.  Why then would we ever carry a grudge?  It can only do us harm.

Stacey E. Durham



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