I am privileged to be a part of two Bible studies this year. One of my favorite things about these studies is the discussion time that we have as a small group, following our personally studying of God’s Word.
I love hearing how other people answer the questions. Sometimes it’s the way they word their answer that helps me to understand the Scripture passage in a fresh or clearer way. Sometimes it’s an example they share; a story, a parable or something from their own life that helps me to understand the Scripture.
In this week’s lesson we studied the passage from Matthew 6, which includes God’s commands about forgiving others. One question had us answer what we would advise a person who is struggling to forgive.
One response that was given was an example that many of us may have heard. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. That’s a good example on the harm that unforgiveness does in our lives and just how crazy it is to not forgive.
But that got me to thinking about forgiveness, especially for believers in Christ. Why should we forgive someone when they have hurt us, either purposely and intentionally or by accident?
First and foremost, God calls us, no He commands us to forgive others. That alone should inform my actions and cause me to obey Christ.
But if it doesn’t cause me to forgive, what might prompt me to obedience? I can look at my own life, my sin, my deceitfully wicked heart apart from Christ and see how much God has forgiven me. When my huge sin debt has been wiped clean by holy and righteous God Himself, how can I hold onto an offense by another and refuse to forgive them? When my grievous sin is weighed on the scales against the offense I’ve suffered, there is no comparison.
I may need to remind myself, especially if it’s a fellow Christian, Christ has forgiven them. He died on the cross and paid the penalty for their sin, even the sin that hurt me. Their sins are forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west, as are mine. How can I put myself over and above Christ and not forgive someone whom Christ died for and forgave?
If it’s an unbeliever, well Christ died to pay the sin debt all humanity. He stands ready to forgive them and embrace them if they repent of their sins and receive Christ Jesus as Lord. His righteousness will be applied to their account and their sin debt will be wiped clean.
God doesn’t say, “Forgive someone if they are a fellow Christian.” No, He doesn’t make my forgiveness conditional on their repentance or if they are saved. He tells me to forgive.
I have no solid ground to stand on when I choose to be unforgiving. None!
Is it easy? No, absolutely not. But God can help me to forgive. It’s a choice that I need to make every day. When the enemy comes along and stirs up hurt feelings, I can choose to remind myself about what God has already spoken about forgiveness. Speak the truth from God’s Word into my life, my heart, mind, will and emotions. I can ask God in prayer to help my feelings catch up with my will to obey Him and forgive.
Another thought I had was about obedience to God. I’m a little concerned about things I see in the church today. It’s seems like we have a tendency to make it about us and not God. We may focus on how we feel. We talk about the benefits we may experience as a result of obedience.
But there seems to be a lack or reverence and obedience to God. He is Holy and Righteous and Just and deserves nothing less than our full obedience. Not because we feel like it, but because He is God!
That doesn’t mean that our feelings are always in line with obeying God as an act of our will. When that’s the case, we can confess that and seek God’s help to heal our hurting hearts. We can strengthen our minds with truth from God’s Word.
Lord, help me to love You more with each passing day. Help me to know Your Word, to hunger and thirst for it. Help me to hide Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. Help me to obey You, as an act of my will and out of love for You. In Christ’s precious and saving name I pray…Amen!