True Biblical forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult things to extend. This is particularly true when someone wrongs us multiple times, perhaps even in the same way. Can we forgive someone who has committed adultery against us? Can we forgive someone who continually speaks lies about us? Can we forgive someone who has abused us? Can we forgive someone whom we think does not deserve forgiveness?
Can we? Yes. Do we? Unfortunately not all the time, but we should.
Peter had a conversation with Christ regarding the issue of forgiveness in Matthew 18. In this discussion there is no particular offense stated, only the generic reference to being sinned against, so any human offense could be included. While there are no doubt many things that can be learned from this passage, I would like to point out a few that struck me this morning.
Forgiveness is limitless. While we may not verbalize it, we often have a limit on how many times we will forgive someone, especially for a repeated offense. But in reality, there should be no limit on how many times we forgive others. That is a difficult principle, but one to which we must yield our wills.
Forgiveness is compassionate. There is true compassion, true love, extended when we forgive someone else. It shows that we are willing to reconcile and build the relationship, as difficult as it may be.
Forgiveness is reciprocal. By this I mean that it reflects the very forgiveness which has been extended to us by God through Jesus Christ. God has forgiven us of our infinite debt; we ought to forgive others of their miniscule sin against us. Sin always hurts, and this does not minimize that hurt; yet in comparison with our sin against a holy and infinite God, other sins against us are not as grievous. Therefore we ought to forgive others based on God’s forgiveness of us.
Forgiveness is genuine. It comes from the heart. It does not bring up that offense to that person again, nor to ourselves, nor to anyone else. Heart-felt forgiveness does not hold grudges, or gossip about the offender.
Forgiveness is godly. Cultivating a heart of forgiveness is cultivating the heart of our Father in heaven. God is ready to forgive, which should be our heart as well.
People will sin against us because we live in a sinful world. Yet God’s children ought to forgive, as we have been forgiven in Christ. This is not always easy, but it is possible, if we only submit ourselves to the absolute truth of Scripture rather than to our fickle emotions and our sinful flesh.
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”