Summary: Forgiveness from Jesus makes it possible for us to forgive others
Daring to Forgive
September 17, 2006
Mitsuo Fuchida was the commander of the Japanese Air Force that led 860 planes against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Jacob DeShazer was an American bomber pilot and on April 18th he flew a dangerous raid against the city of Nagoya. DeSazer lost his way and was forced to eject when the plane ran out of fuel. He was captured, tortured and threatened that they would kill him. For nearly two years, DeShazer suffered from hunger, cold and dysentery.
In May of 1944, he was given a Bible and after reading for weeks, DeShazer read Romans 10:9 and accepted Christ. As he continued to read he was struck by the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 - 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, DeShazer was a changed man and he began to treat the guards differently. With all hostility gone, he began to show those men the love Christ had shown him.
Following the war DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary and distributed copies of his testimony “I was a prisoner of the Japanese.” The Japanese people were amazed by his forgiveness of his former enemies and flocked to hear him speak. DeShazer decided to start a church in the city that he had bombed years earlier.
As a result of his testimony, a former officer in the Japanese Air Force was saved and was eager to meet DeShazer. The two men became friends and began working to spread the gospel to all of Japan. That man was Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Fuchida became one of the most successful evangelists in Japan. All of this happened because Jacob DeShazer made the decision to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.
When it comes to being like Christ, our biggest challenge just might be forgiveness. Forgiving others when they wrong us goes completely against our human nature. In fact, we are more likely to want to “settle the score” or “get even.” My brother would tell me don’t bother with getting even, just try to stay several ahead. This is our human perspective at its worst. We desire revenge or retribution. This is why Jesus gave so much attention to the issue of forgiveness.
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Major Misconceptions about Forgiveness
1. God’s Forgiveness is unconditional
There are two key conditions in gaining God’s forgiveness
To repent means to turn from your sin and turn toward Christ. Before God can forgive you, He wants you to come to Him
You need to forgive because you have been forgiven
2. Forgiveness is a one time need
Forgiveness is a need that never seems to move completely away from our Christian walk. As we grow in our relationship with God new things are revealed to us and at times there are things we need to ask forgiveness for.
3. You extend forgiveness only when asked
The thinking behind this is simple: you don’t need to forgive unless you are asked.
There was a woman in my first church who had suffered from horrible abuse by her step father. When she became a Christian this abuse became an issue. She felt that she needed to forgive her step father for all of the abuses but there was a problem. The step father never asked for the forgiveness and had died and could not ask. Her dilemma was clear, she knew she needed to forgive but there seemed to be no way to do so. My suggestion to her was to write her step father a letter. Tell exactly how she felt and express her forgiveness.
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
• To let go – to keep no longer
• To leave – to go away from
The forgiveness that Jesus gives to us and wants us to give to others means several things. When forgiveness is given the matter is no longer held against the person. The situation is no longer remembered in a negative light. The person doing the forgiving is set free from the hurt and the pain.