Summary: Authentic FORGIVENESS is the mutual recognition that REPENTANCE IS GENUINE and RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS ARE RENEWED.
FORGIVENESS! Seven times a day? In fact, seventy times seven! What is Forgiveness? FUNK & WAGNELL’S DICTIONARY says FORGIVENESS means "The act of forgiving or the state of being forgiven." Then it says to FORGIVE means 1."To grant pardon for or remission of something; cease to demand the penalty for. 2. To grant freedom from penalty to someone. 3. To cease to blame or feel resentment against. 4. To remit, as a debt. 5. To grant pardon, absolve."
Forgiveness in the New Testament context is usually synonymous with our usage of "reconciliation." The two Greek words for FORGIVENESS are translated most clearly as "to release or set free" or "to offer a gift of grace." In his book "THE FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS," David Augsberger says "Forgiveness is ACCEPTANCE with NO exception. It accepts not only the HURT you’ve received, it accepts the one who DID the hurting, and it accepts the loss caused by the hurtful actions or words."
The Bible says we are to "forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us." (Col. 3:13). God’s forgiveness in Jesus was utterly and totally invested in Christ’s incarnate involvement, His crucified self-commitment, and His life’s blood sacrifice for us humans. There is NO CHEAP forgiveness in Christ who is our example, our model, and our empowerment.
The Cross of Christ shows how difficult it was for God to forgive, how far God was willing to go to forgive, and how costly it is to forgive. God allowed His only Son Jesus to go to the Cross for two reasons - 1. To make FORGIVENESS possible for us, and 2. To MODEL forgiving to an UNFORGIVING world.
The Christ of the Cross is our ultimate example of FORGIVENESS. In Jesus we see compassion modeled. We see love embodied. We see faithfulness to TRUTH carried to its authentic conclusion. We see human possibilities beyond our wildest dreams. We see the face of God, and it’s a face of forgiving love. Of course, we need more than an example to live by - we need the POWER to live a NEW life. You see, just admiring beauty doesn’t make you beautiful! Just respecting an example of goodness does not make you good. We need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ that can SET US FREE to BE LIKE HIM. We need that TRANSFORMING relationship that comes with having Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord. Jesus Christ is our FORGIVER and our FORGIVENESS. The Cross shows how difficult it was for God to forgive sinful man. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us "God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to Himself."
Authentic FORGIVENESS is the mutual recognition that REPENTANCE IS GENUINE and RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS ARE RENEWED.
The bottom line is that FORGIVENESS is HARD!. How do you forgive when the cost is staggering. How do you forgive when the pain is unbearable. How do you forgive when your anger is still swelling within you? For true forgiveness to take place, we must be able to separate WHAT WAS DONE from WHO HAS DONE IT. In other words, you’ve got to deal with the issues, and keep personalities out of the mix.
Think about our scripture passage today - MT. 18:21-35. Peter comes to Jesus in his usual self-righteous way. The law of the day demanded you forgive your neighbor/your brother/or your enemy - THREE times. Peter felt he was being magnanimous by more than doubling the requirement of the law up to SEVEN times. But as usual, Jesus turns the thinking of the world on it’s ear - Peter expected Jesus to say something like: "Hey, the rest of you guys - pay attention to this - Peter here has it "going on" - He’s Da’ Man! Instead, Jesus blows Peter’s mind by saying "No, Peter, seven times isn’t enough - you need to forgive seventy times seven times!" Can’t you just see Peter? Seventy times seven? (counting on his fingers) "But that’s 490 times!" Then the rest of the disciples drop their jaws! And I can imagine James & John (the sons of Thunder) - "Oh, man, if we have to forgive 490 times - that means we can never throw anyone in jail, never pluck out any eyes, never chop off any hands, nothing! That’s no fun at all!" Retribution - retaliation - revenge - that’s the law of the world - forgiveness, love, and mercy - that’s the law of Jesus.