Summary: Forgiveness is not a one-time event, it is a lifestyle for the authentic believer
Believers Who Are M.A.D.
A Life of Forgiveness
Once there was a millionaire who owned a lot in an exclusive residential area of a large city. This lot presented an unusual problem. It was only 2 yards wide but nearly 100 feet long. There was nothing that he could do but sell it to one of the neighbors on either side. He went to the neighbor on one side of his lot and asks if he would be interested in buying the lot. The neighbor said, “Well only as a favor,” then named a ridiculously low price. The millionaire exploded. “Why that’s not even one-tenth of what it is worth!” He stormed out and went next store. To his dismay the other neighbor offered less. “Look,” said the neighbor smugly, “I’ve got you over a barrel. You can’t sell that lot to anyone else and you can’t build on it. So there’s my offer take it or leave it.” The millionaire was beside himself with rage. Within a few days, he hired an architect & a contractor to build one of the strangest houses ever conceived. Only five feet wide running the length of his property, his house was little more than a row of tiny rooms, each barely able to accommodate a stick of furniture. The neighbors complained, but the city officials could find no codes or violations to stop the construction. When it was finished, the millionaire moved into the uncomfortable house. There he stayed until his death. The house, which became known as “Spite House,” still stands as a monument to one man’s problem of hate and unforgiveness.
* This week I discovered a disturbing (yet true) statement. It said, “Most believers have no problem hearing and accepting the Biblical principles of ‘forgiveness’, but have great difficulty in ‘incorporating’ them into their lives. Forgiveness is one of those things which are easily expected of other while more very difficult to grant to others. Words like ‘you don’t know what he did’, ‘I can never get over that’, or ‘she hurt me bad’ are among some of the phrases we use to justify carrying unforgiveness in our heart.
* Did you realize that the concept of forgiveness is not a concept which we imported into the church from the pagan culture? To those outside of God’s love (particularly in the Old Testament ‘pagan’ culture) to forgive is to be ‘weak-spirited’ and infrequently mentioned. This could be why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said—hate your enemies.” We could respond, “who said it and what did they mean by it?’ However, it was the Jewish culture who taught it (the Imprecatory Psalms) to all who listened & heard. Jesus brought a new way of thinking & living.
* The old adage, “To ere is human, to forgive is divine” is literally true. To live the life forgiveness is to live above the level of the natural man. It is not about a onetime action, it is about an ongoing lifestyle. The life we lead possesses much power; the power to influence, to impact, to injure, and even to invite. Let’s understand the implications of forgiveness.
1. It Confuses – This concept of a “life of forgiveness” confuses many of us, certainly it confused Peter. Questions like ‘when Jesus says ‘forgive,’ what does He really mean?’ Or ‘how do I do this?’ Or even ‘when do I forgive—do I wait until after they ask?’ If we are to make a difference in this culture, we must reflect Him and His commands, so let’s see if we can ferret out what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. First, I call your attention back to verses 15-20. Jesus is teaching about restoration from sin (which does require divine and human forgiveness). Peter hears this teaching and perhaps is thinking about someone in particular who has a habit of wronging Peter. So Peter hears this and asks the question. Quite likely, Peter used the ‘7 times’ because the Rabbinical law stated you only had to forgive ‘3 times’ so Peter thought Jesus would be impressed with his doubling and adding 1 to it. Can you hear the chat?
* What is forgiveness? It is a release, turning loose of, & even moving on. In simple terms, it is letting go of your right &/or desire to get even. It is not condoning, winking at, or even saying ‘it’s okay.’
* When do I forgive? Some have suggested that ‘we are under no Biblical mandate to forgive until they repent.’ Is that so? Well, Jesus forgave the soldiers who had no desire to be forgiven. Time and again He forgave those who were afflicted when they weren’t even asking for forgiveness. As for you and me if offer this; if I regard iniquity in my heart, I cannot have fellowship with the Father. Unforgiveness is iniquity. Additionally, the first step to freedom for me is to forgive you. Whether I’m able to reconcile the relationship or not, if I don’t deal in forgiveness in my own heart, I will remain in bondage and provide fertile ground for a root of bitterness to spring up. The sooner I come to forgive, the sooner I get freed. Also, if I go ahead & deal in forgiveness in ‘my’ life, then when God grant the opportunity for reconciliation, I am ready and prepared without any agenda to effect healing & restoration. Don’t’ wait.