Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. – The Lord’s Prayer
Asking forgiveness is easy. We simply recognize our mistake, accept the consequence (shame or otherwise), repent, and request forgiveness from the person we transgressed.
Granting forgiveness is difficult. Why so? The reason is deeply sinful. We simply desire to be a vigilante in the name of self-preservation. We withhold forgiveness because we want to protect ourselves.
We would like to think ourselves as vigilantes of righteous justice; however, not only is that difficult to achieve, Jesus informs us that it’s not our job to exercise God’s justice. It’s God’s job to exercise God’s justice. The parable of the wheat and weed (tare) is enough: Jesus says that God will send His messengers to pull the weeds from among the wheat. If you and I embark on that mission, we likely will uproot wheat in the process.
What about Jesus telling His disciples Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.? Does that give us authority to decide when to extend and withhold forgiveness? Nope. Jesus is not transferring His sovereignty to the disciples. Prior to ascending, Jesus claims ALL authority in heaven and earth is Mine. Bounding and loosening is related to the authority Jesus gives to His Body – all Christians – in the context of church discipline (Matt 16 & 18), not in an individual (although Peter is definitely a quarterback of sorts much like Eliakim in Isaiah 22.22).
In the Lord’s Prayer, the end of Matthew 18 and other places throughout Scripture, it is crystal clear that followers of Jesus are to extend forgiveness to their transgressors.
When Christians withhold forgiveness, it is a sinful act of insecurity. It asks God, Are you strong enough to protect me? I do not believe You hold me in the shelter of Your wings. I am insecure in my relationship with You…can You really protect me from being hurt again?
When Christians withhold forgiveness, it is a sinful act of treason. It says God, I am going to dig in and protect myself. I will not submit myself to Your sovereignty. You do not know what’s best for me. I know what’s best for me. I am the captain of my soul. Not to You, o God, but to me be the glory.
When Christians withhold forgiveness it is a sinful act of deceit. It says I am not who I say I am. With my lips I confess I have transgressed against God and in His loving-kindness He extends forgiveness in Jesus Messiah; but in my heart and life I deny the existence of any such thing.
In the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, God proves that mercy triumphs over judgement. That mercy is embodied in the lives of His elect.
Today I choose to forgive as God has chosen to forgive me.
[coming soon will be a post of “What Forgiveness Is Not”. In keeping with the theme of nothing original, the content of that post will come from my wife, Cynthia. It should be noted that her formula for forgiveness is not original with her…we’re passing on that which has been entrusted to us.]