Summary: Forgiveness is conditional and part of a continuum.
1. Twenty years ago, Rwanda experienced a horrible genocide as one tribal group attacked and massacred another over tribal rivalry.
Here is one story of forgiveness from that horrid era.
“He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.” [New York Times Magazine]
2. We are all in the world of both needing forgiveness and needing to forgive. Some of our sins, or the wrongs done against us, are more serious than others. But they are part of each life here today.
Questions we will attempt to answer in this series include: Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented? How can I cope when I have ill feelings toward another? Is it okay to want God to even the score? Does forgiving imply forgetting? When I wrong someone, what, besides asking for forgiveness, can I do? Is it ever right to overlook the wrong things people do? Is it right to not get mad but to get even instead? If we forgive a person who committed a crime, should they be prosecuted?
What does a genuine apology sound like? What about wrongs done in ignorance)?
Main Thought Forgiveness is conditional and part of a continuum.
I. The More Detailed Texts Tell Us that Forgiveness is Conditioned Upon REPENTANCE (Luke 17:3-4).
A. The PATTERN for us forgiving others is how God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
Ephesians 4:32 is a broad-brush teaching, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
This concept is repeated in the Lord’s prayer.
1. We should interpret shorter portions of Scripture in light of the LONGER.
2. We may be tempted to UNIVERSALIZE a teaching from a specific verse rather than looking at all the Scriptures that come to bear on the subject.
Matthew 18:21-22, Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Luke 17:3-4, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
B. This requires us to PONDER how God has forgiven us.
1. Were you born forgiven by God?
2. What was required for you to be forgiven?
3. Does God forgive everyone, repentant or not?
• God is not ashamed to say He has not forgiven the non-repentant.
• If God automatically forgave everyone unconditionally, everyone would be saved. No one would be lost. God's forgiveness is therefore NOT unconditional, but conditional….that is the pattern for us.
4. God does not hold us to a more stringent or gracious standard than he does for himself.
C. Like God, we should stand READY to forgive the repentant.
1. Our general disposition, according to Ephesians 4:32, is to be tenderhearted.
2. This is one reason I don’t advise scolding. Confronting, yes, Enlightening, sometimes. Scolding no.
3. If God is our model, one of his celebrated characteristics is his graciousness.
4. Tenderhearted: we should be eager to be gracious when an offender repents, not grudgingly gracious.
D. The atoning work of Christ addresses both our LEGAL status before God, and our RELATIONAL status before God.
1. Expiation vs. propitiation.
2. Full forgiveness suggests both; sometimes our forgiveness can only be partial.
3. Even though our sins have been expiated and propitiated, sin affects our relationship to God.
I John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
4. For the believer, fellowship is restored when we confess our sins, a condition.
5. Fellowship with the Father is not restored if we fail to confess our sins.
II. Forgiveness, in a Sense, is a CONTINUUM.
A. In its fullest sense, forgiveness completely RE-ESTABLISHES the relationship as though (or almost as though) the offense never occurred.
B. SEMANTICS confuses the issue: what many call, “forgiveness” may mean a resolve to not get even – or a determination to let something “go.”
C. The way to measure forgiveness is emotional DISTANCE.
1. Jacob and Esau were friends again.
2. Joseph loved and cared for his brothers (but not mutual).