Summary: We are meant to have a spirit of forgiveness to live out the Christian life
A Spirit of Forgiveness
A Christian lawyer who had been studying the scripture made the decision to cancel the debts of every client that owed him money for more than six months. The lawyer wrote a letter explaining the biblical principles that he used to make his decision. In all he sent out 17 debt canceling letters via certified mail to verify that the clients had received the letters.
16 out of the 17 letters were returned unopened. Why would anyone turn down a cancellation of their debts? After talking with some of the people the lawyer found out the reason that none of the people accepted the letter. Many of them believed that the lawyer was sending the letter to tell them he was suing them for their debts.
How sad that most people cannot be open to the understanding of forgiveness? As Christians, we are not only mean to understand forgiveness but to put forgiveness into practice in our lives.
There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive, we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity p104-105)
If you have your Bibles with you, please open them to Matthew 18:21-35.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,’ he begged, `and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 "Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,’ he said, `I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:21-35
The Truth about Forgiveness
The Greek word for forgive has many different meanings and applies to many different situations but in the interest of time I want to focus on three that directly apply to this passage. The first meaning is to let go, let alone or to let be. The second meaning is to give up or to keep no longer. The third meaning is to disregard.
This means that everything that God has the right to hold against you, He lets go of when He forgives you. It means that God keeps those things that you have confessed against you no longer. Not only does God let go of what you’ve done but He also disregards it and no longer remembers it. This is what it means to experience the forgiveness of God the Father.
If you only forgive when someone asks, you completely miss the point Jesus is making. Forgiveness is an act of personal will. It is a choice and you make the choice to be either forgiving or unforgiving.
Four Reasons to extend forgiveness even when not asked
1.) The person may not know they wronged you or what the problem is
2.) The person may no longer have contact with you
3.) The situation continues to hurt you until you let it go
4.) You open yourself for further sin – anger, bitterness and resentment
The Greek word that Jesus uses in Matthew is aphiemi. This word has three major implications.
• To let alone or to disregard