Forgiveness. Wish we didn’t need to talk about that.
For the apostle Paul, maintaining relationships had priority. He said, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man.”
The word exercise interests me, since physical exercise is not on my favorites list. It’s something I make myself do because it’s good for me. Putting Acts 24:16 into practice is something I make myself do because it’s good for me.
The first part—living void of offense toward God—requires staying ‘fessed up; the second part—living void of offense toward humans—requires living in a state of continual forgiveness.
After beginning my day with Bible study and prayer committing my day to the Lord, I’m prepared for whatever comes. Then wouldn’t you know? Somebody gets on my last nerve.
If people would just stop doing things I have to forgive!
Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
That’s irritating. Somebody mistreats me and I have to do the forgiving. Believe me, I’ve examined the forgiveness principle from every angle, trying to find a loophole. The facts are clear: my receiving forgiveness is conditional, leaving me no choice but to extend forgiveness, whether the offense is trivial or titanic.
Two huge truths prepare my heart to forgive:
- People who offend me don’t know what they’re doing. On the cross, Jesus—almost in his dying breath—prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
- The offense is against God, not me. Throughout Exodus and Numbers, the Israelites grumbled about their circumstances. Moses wrote, “The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him…your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord” (Exodus 16:8). The Lord said, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me” (Numbers 14:27).
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. If I wait until I feel forgiving, I’ll never extend forgiveness. I forgive, not because the person deserves it, but because my Lord requires it. This is an obedience issue.Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. If I wait until I feel forgiving, I'll never extend forgiveness. I forgive, not because the person deserves it, but because my Lord requires it. This is an obedience issue. Click To Tweet
Forgiveness simply means cancelling the debt. The offender owes me—an apology and perhaps restitution. Forgiveness cancels that debt.
Paul raised the bar on forgiveness. He said, “Alexander the Coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works” (2 Timothy 4:14). That’s freedom. Then he went a step beyond. He said at his first defense, “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (2 Timothy 4:16). That’s maturity. That’s Christlikeness.
The sooner I choose to forgive, the better for me. Forgiveness prevents bitterness from taking root and spreading like cancer of the soul.The sooner I choose to forgive, the better for me. Forgiveness prevents bitterness from taking root and spreading like cancer of the soul. Click To Tweet
A simple prayer enables me to keep the bitterness slate clean.
Lord, I acknowledge this evil is against you, not me. I have no right to get even. I confess my resentment as sin—disobedience that grieves you. I cast my hurt on you. By your grace and a decision of my will, I forgive_________, believing _________did not know what he/she was doing. I trust you to work this for my good and your glory. Examine me and expose any lingering bitterness. Purify my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control overflows my life. I pray in the precious name of Jesus, who purchased me with his own blood, amen.
I still may not feel forgiving, but I go forward practicing Jesus’ teaching. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Love, bless, to good, and pray.
People will continue doing things I have to forgive. A life void of offense toward man requires living in a state of continual forgiveness—a huge step toward a life void of offense toward God.
Ask the Lord if you need to do some exercise today.
Choosing to live in a state of continual forgiveness is the third key to dispensing the sweet fragrance of Christ.
Would you tell us about the blessing you received by extending forgiveness to someone who did not deserve it? And please share this article with your friends!
Adapted from Cabbages and Kings—Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ.
© Dianne Barker 2018 (reprinted)