What is Forgiveness? What do the Scriptures say about forgiveness? Is forgiveness important? Steph provides these answers and more.
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The word forgive is used 58 times in the New Testament alone. It’s obviously an important concept to the Lord. And that likely comes as no surprise to most of you. But how much time do we spend thinking about forgiveness—and putting it into practice?
This topic was prompted by my pastor’s recent message on what it means to be a slave of Christ. As believers in Jesus, we are His slaves—and His friends. Only from God’s perspective are these not opposing realities. John 15:15 refers to us as the Lord’s friends, and yet, in the previous verse Jesus informs us if we love Him, we will keep His commands.
Our pastor pointed out how ridiculous that would be from a human perspective. “You can be my friend, but you have to do everything I say.”
God’s perspective is far beyond ours.
The Example of Forgiveness Jesus Set
We have to remember the example the Lord set for us while He walked the Earth. He spoke with the Samaritan woman who had been married five times. No self-respecting Jewish man at that time would even have considered doing so. The Lord allowed a woman of questionable character to anoint His feet. He shared His last meal not only with those who were vying for the highest positions in the government they thought He had come to establish but also with the man He knew would betray Him. Then Jesus took up the posture of the lowliest of slaves and washed His disciples’ feet.
Shortly after, He set the most amazing example of all. Although He had never committed a crime—He had never sinned in any way—He was led away to suffer perhaps the cruelest form of execution ever devised. And He did so in order that we might be forgiven of our sin.
So, when the Lord commands us to forgive, He does so fully understanding what it means.
If we are Christ’s slave, His friend, His child … we will follow His example. Will we do so perfectly? No. Will there be times it’s a work-in-progress? As long as we’re on this side of heaven. Will there be times we have to walk away from people and situations? There will be. But forgiveness can mark our lives even then.
If you have experienced abuse … if you are in a dangerous situation … if you have suffered—or are suffering—at the hands of another person … that is beyond the scope of this devotional. I encourage you to seek godly counsel and get the help you need.
But for today, let’s focus on our everyday lives.
Forgiveness in Everyday Life, Jesus Style
First, we have to be honest with ourselves on many levels. We must recognize the truth of Romans 3:23. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Jesus took the punishment each of us deserves.
Although Jesus had every right to demand unquestioning obedience, He left the glory of heaven to show us what humble obedience looks like.
Isaiah 53:3 puts it this way, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (ESV).
We know this is true of the religious leaders and those who put Jesus to death, but it was also true of His followers, who abandoned Him when He needed them the most.
He knew this would happen when He devoted over three years to instructing them, inviting them to witness miracles, even empowering them to perform miracles themselves.
And He knew what lay ahead when He set such an amazing example for them—and for us—at the last supper.
We must recognize who He is and that we are not worthy to be forgiven.
We must also recognize that we can easily feel negatively toward any number of people in the course of a day: the guy who cuts us off in traffic, the overworked cashier who shortchanges us, the friend who walks right passed us without saying hello.
Do we release our feelings of hostility, judgement, and hurt or do we hold onto them? Do we take the time to pray for the other person or do we rail against them? If we have the opportunity, do we smile at them and offer a kind word or do we grumble and complain?
We must get into the habit of extending forgiveness for the little things if we are going to learn to forgive those who wrong us in more serious ways.
Forgiveness is vital. In Matthew 6:14-15, we are told, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (ESV).
If we focus on what the Lord has done for us and on serving Him and those He brings into our life, it will be easier to forgive.
Learn About Other Treasures
Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio. Read and hear more from Steph Nickel on the contributor’s page or at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests.
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Images courtesy of:
Man in sunglasses – Massimodoti
Couple – StockSnap
Night scene– MasakiWakui
Guy reading – StockSnap
Women praying – StockSnap