Summary: There's nothing more important to a Christian than forgiveness. It is the basis of our salvation, and we can't love one another as He loved us without forgiving one another. Therefore, we need to understand what forgiveness is and what it is not.
"When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way... so I stole a bicycle... and asked him to forgive me."
Well, there are 100s of jokes about forgiveness- the one I read is by Emo Phillips- and there are legions of people who actually believe that God's forgiving nature... allows them to do whatever they please... but today I want to talk about forgiveness... in a serious vein because... forgiving lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian! Jesus' entire ministry was dedicated to forgiveness and renewal. Among his last words on the cross were, "Father, forgive them...," and when his disciples received the Holy Spirit (John 20), he said, "If you forgive the sins of any, they will be forgiven." In short, our Master lived and died with forgiveness on his mind, and it seems to me that the most quintessential thing we can do as Christians is to FORGIVE others. Friends, if you want to do something today for Jesus, get out there and forgive someone. Release someone from the bondage of guilt, fear, and resentment. You have the power to do it, and in the forgiving... you will free yourself from the same chains. Also, according to Matthew 6:12, every time we say the Lord's Prayer, we affirm that there is a distinct relationship between forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves. In short, apart from accepting Christ, forgiving others is one of our single greatest Christian acts! If you want to do what Christ did, get out there and forgive someone and do it again and again and again- 70 times 7- as a way of life! Forgiving is not just another good trait. It is- more than a clerical collar or church attendance- a sign that a person has experienced rebirth and that he or she is growing in Christ. A forgiving spirit is a Christian spirit... so let me offer a few thoughts that may be helpful... as you seek to be more and more Christ-like:
1. Forgiving others is a choice! It's not a feeling. Each day, when we ask Jesus to show us ways in
which we can witness to Him, we are agreeing to forgive another person if the Holy Spirit opens
the door- no matter how badly that person has hurt us, or how long we have piled up resentments,
or how much we think that the person deserves to be punished. Forgiving others, especially those
who need forgiveness most, is not easy... but If you're waiting to feel like forgiving another
person, you may be waiting a very, very long time;
2, Forgiving others will make you healthy! Yes, it's true. For the engineers and scientifically
minded, let me say that forgiving others... a) helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart
rate; b) improves sleep quality; c) strengthens immunity among HIV-positive patients;
d) reduces depression, anxiety, and anger; e) lowers risk of drug abuse; and f) allows YOU to
move on with your life In short, forgive... even if you think it's all about you. However,
3. Forgiving others restores our relationship with GOD. Friends, resentment is a deadly
spiritual cancer, which like sin, will block our growth in Christ and hinder our relationship with
God. If we're burdened with anger and resentment, we won't pray, study, or serve God as we
should, and we will deprive ourselves, our neighbors, and our God of the joy that emanates
from a healthy, loving relationship. Refusing to forgive others creates a lose-lose-lose scenario
and the entire world is lesser for it. This is why Christ urges us to restore relationships with one
another... before we come to His table; (Matt. 5:23)
4. Forgiving others... fulfills the new Commandment that Jesus gave in John 13:34- which calls
us to love one another AS he has loved us! As Christians, we are called to love each other AS
Christ loved us, and while this includes a lot of things, it MUST include forgiving one another!
To talk about Christ-like love without talking about radical forgiveness would be nonsensical;
5. Forgiving is NOT the same as minimizing or denying the pain you have incurred! Some
people, even those who have been hurt badly, dismiss the pain that they've experienced. "I'm
fine," they say, or "It's nothing." Well, you're not fine and it is something! We are all God's
children. We are all precious in His sight. Each one of us carries the image of God within us,
and in Christ, each of us is an heir to His throne. In Christ, we are worth loving, even worth
dying for, and no one has permission to violate us, dismiss us, or diminish us in any way.