Yes, it’s hard to forgive. Much harder than I could have imagined; and often in ways I don’t expect. Do you ever find it easier to forgive the “bigger” or more “shameful” offenses against you, but struggle with those “less important” ones? For me, the most difficult moments of extending forgiveness are usually those where someone has offended me in some small way. Perhaps they may say or do something that hurts or offends me, to which I “explode” or make such a big deal of until I find myself sitting in a puddle of vomit, licking my wounds (which are often scratches at most). But oddly enough, the “little” offenses I commit against others I barely think twice about, while the heinous, shameful, guilt-ridden sins drag me down to the pits of Sheol leaving me forlorn and pressed down beneath the gates of condemnation.
Perhaps you can relate?
Let me tell you: there’s really good news for you and me!
In Matthew 18 (verse 21), Peter came to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Jesus’ answer may have initially surprised His listening disciples, but I’m certain they understood it well later, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy- seven times.”
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Pausing here for a moment, let’s picture this king as our King, Jesus, and we are the servant who owed much to Him, yet could not pay. Can you relate at all?
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
If Christ is your Lord and Savior, and you have been born again, this is exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. Out of His love and mercy towards us, He completely forgave us ALL our great debt we owed Him, which we could not pay, because of our sins against Him. Isn’t He so good to us?
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe.” So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you. He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
Sadly, this has too often been my response toward my brothers and sisters. This has been what the Holy Spirit has recently been convicting me of. How easy it is to take an offense towards me and hold it against my brother or sister. How many times have I acted just like this unforgiving servant, demanding repentance or satisfaction of my own desires? And in all of this, I forget how great a debt I have been forgiven, and the price that was paid for my redemption–the very own blood of Jesus. O Lord, forgive my selfishness!
When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Unforgiveness is often a result of pride and bitterness; it’s placing ones own desires above those of any other, and proclaiming that your will be done–not God’s. The effective result of living in unforgiveness is slavery and imprisonment to self and sin, and ultimately death. There is no life, no joy, no peace and no love in the presence of sin. Where is freedom found in all of this? In Jesus.
There is no greater example–no greater demonstration of the power of love and forgiveness in all of history than what Christ Jesus did for us at calvary. You and I, who have been born of God, have the Holy Spirit who is our helper to overcome sin. We can, by the power of Christ in us, extend this same love of Jesus towards all who sin against us.
Recently, the Lord has brought this parable to my mind again and again as I fight for love and joy in relating to others around me. He has shown me from His word, not only the importance of forgiveness, but also how to forgive. It truly starts with dying to myself; laying down my desires and my “rights” and humbling myself before Him, asking for His strength to be worked in me. I must ask the Spirit to show me my sin. I must focus on removing the log from my own eye.
When I think of what Jesus has sacrificed for me, and of how great a debt He has forgiven and wiped clean, not even the greatest sin against me by my brother can compare. I have no right to complain, no right to judge. How can I be so selfish? How can I withhold grace? How can I not love and forgive, just as I have been forgiven?
The next time you struggle with forgiving your brother, or friend, remember this parable; remember Christ’s sacrifice and how He has forgiven you!
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” ~ Colossians 3:12-14