The Other Side of Forgiveness

There’s something remarkable about forgiveness. Naturally, it is remarkable to be forgiven, but it is no less remarkable when we forgive others.

Erma Bombeck once said wisely, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness is the key to eliminating that poison from your system.

Surprisingly, we are not just encouraged by Jesus to forgive, we are obliged to do so and will be held accountable for our unforgiving hearts. When Peter asked Jesus about forgiving his brethren, he said, “As many as seven times, Lord?” Jesus’ reply was shocking, “Seventy times seven, Peter my boy,” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Peter no doubt felt that seven times was more than enough, and by the standards of the day it was a magnanimous gesture. But, even seven graces hold out the promise of revenge at number eight. Any retribution will no doubt include a lash for each of the seven prior offences. You can almost hear that nasty little voice, “I hope this guy goes to eight. I’d really like to clobber him.”

Limited forgiveness is not forgiveness at all; it is just a deferred sentence. All the while we count the cost…and sip the poison.

I heard a pastor once say to a group of kids, “Keep short accounts with the LORD.” He was talking about sin and the need for daily personal confession. I would add to that the need for daily personal forgiveness.

Who has offended you? Who has crossed your path? Who said something that now festers under your skin? Who’s bugging you?

If you can’t think of anyone, then ponder your own sins and your own need for God’s merciful grace. It’s amazing what a searching moral inventory will do to purge the soul of unwanted baggage.

The caveat to God’s forgiveness is that it is, in some ways a quid pro quo. While God does not wait for us to make the first move regarding our own need for forgiveness, there is an expectation that our forgiveness will lead to the development of a forgiving heart in our own breast.

Immediately following Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 he says these words, “If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins,” (Matthew 6:14-15).

You do the math on this one; the words are pretty plain.

There is a blessing that comes along with the willingness to follow His leading in this matter: our own healing and the laying aside of our own unwanted burdens. Forgiveness is a blessed relief for the forgiven and the forgiver. And, when we do so we reflect His glory more clearly and more nearly for those jerks who most need to see it.

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