Summary: Shows why forgiveness is a vital part of Christian living; though not easy, it is commanded.
February 17th, 2002
I have made things easy for those who come on Wednesday night, because today I want to share some thoughts from God’s word that we discussed then. You’re not excused, but you should be ahead of the learning curve. On Wednesday, I put the following sentences on the dry-erase board:
• _______ is commanded by God for the Christian.
• _______ is intentional, it is not just a matter of emotions.
• _______ is for who people are, not for what they do.
• _______ is often hard to do.
I asked the Wednesday night people to guess what word would go into this blank and make all of these statements true. Because it was the day before Valentine’s Day, and I hope because I just preached on this the Sunday before, they correctly guessed that the word is “Love.”
Remember what I shared last week about love.
• Love is commanded by God for the Christian.
• Love is intentional, it is not just a matter of emotions. (We sometimes have to love people we don’t like or who we’ve ‘fallen out of love with.’
• Love is for who people are, not for what they do.
• Love is often hard to do.
However, there is another word that fits into each blank and likewise makes each statement true. That word is ‘forgiveness.’ Think about it:
• Forgiveness is commanded by God for the Christian.
• Forgiveness is intentional, it is not just a matter of emotions. (We sometimes have to Forgive people we don’t like or who we don’t think deserve our forgiveness.
• Forgiveness is for who people are, not for what they do.
• Forgiveness is often hard to do.
Like love, forgiveness is something that we know that we should do, but often don’t stop to think about all the implications involved in forgiving someone. We often think that we love because there are people that we love; we think that we forgive because there are some people whom we have forgiven. We think that we love because we love most people, forgetting about those who we don’t love. We think that we forgive because we have forgiven most people, forgetting about those whom we haven’t forgiven. As C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Often, we don’t understand all the implications of love and forgiveness for two reasons: one, we sometimes haven’t put together all of what scripture says about love and forgiveness, and more importantly, we haven’t truly experienced the love and forgiveness of God in our own lives. Let’s try to do both of these things today.
The first thing that we have to realize is that we are commanded to forgive. This is not just a suggestion or an option that we can consider; it is a command from God. Put another way, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.
And why is forgiveness commanded? After all, a lot of people might think that so long as we are holy and religious, it doesn’t really matter how you conduct your personal relations. But, as we learned last week, how we relate to others is directly tied to our relation with God. If we know God’s love then we can know love for others. The opposite is also true, if you do not love, you do not know God because God is love. This is true for forgiveness. Whoever knows true forgiveness knows God because God is all about forgiveness. If you do not know how to forgive, you do not know God because God is the source of all forgiveness. If you have been truly forgiven by God for your many sins, then you will be better able to understand how to forgive others the sins that they have committed against you. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” is our prayer in the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes I think we are hoping that God doesn’t take that “as we forgive those who trespass against us” too literally.
Second, we are commanded to forgive because forgiveness is all about love. Remember, the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. There is no way to forgive without loving, and there is no way to love without forgiving. We are all fallen humans, full of sin and selfishness, and if we are going to be around each other at all in loving relationships then we are going to have to learn to forgive. Just ask any couple who has been married for over a decade if you need to learn to forgive in order to keep love alive. If you are obeying God’s command to love him and his creation, then you have to know how to forgive.