Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Forgiveness from the Heart, Part II

So watch yourselves.
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)

Let’s look at the text in Luke 17. The fellow sins against me seven times in one day. After each time during the day he says “I repent.” After a few of these sins and the same number of “I repents” I begin to get suspicious that he is not really repentant. I have to forgive him from my heart only on his statement that he is repentant. I am not allowed to judge the sincerity of his repentance. The seven times is again not the number seven only, but a lot of times. The Luke 17 passage does not tell me to refuse to forgive him until he repents. Also in Matthew 18 (the seventy-seven or seventy times seven) the forgiveness is not dependent on his repentance. It is dependent on my prior forgiveness.

God is the only one who can forgive sins so that cleansing takes place in the sinner. When I forgive the sinner it does not cleanse him at all; it only cleanses me. If I withhold forgiveness I end up hurting myself. My not forgiving is sin in itself.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:12-15)

The unforgiver is in big trouble. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (Matt. 18:35).”

How do we reconcile Ephesians 4:32-5:2 with the above?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Paul says we are to forgive as Christ forgave us. Jesus says that He will forgive if we forgive. These texts are only contradictory if we are disobeying the text in Ephesians. If I am forgiving as Christ forgave then I can honestly pray Matthew 6:12—“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Forgive me as I forgive because I forgive like you forgave me.

God, in Jesus, forgave from the cross.

The sinner does not receive his forgiveness from God until he repents.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:17-18)

However, the forgiveness of God is there beforehand and is a major cause of the repentance. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance (Rom. 2:4)?” “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).” Forgiveness and the “place among the sanctified” are the result of the turning from the power of Satan to God. The turning is the result of the kindness and preaching of Christ.

(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

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