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

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Heart: Forgiving from the Heart

Here is another post on the heart by Bessie, taken from a column entitled "The Heart" which was published in The Hammer (a CCM magazine) years ago.

By Bessie Wilson

In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew we have a remarkable story that Jesus told in answer to a question Peter asked. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

We all know Jesus’ answer: “Not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Or the more traditional King James rendering, “until seventy times seven.” Regardless whether it is seventy-seven times or four hundred ninety times, it is obvious that Jesus put no limit on the times we are to forgive.

The story is remarkable in that it pictures the enormous debt which was canceled because of the mercy of the master. But it also pictures the minor debt which this same servant would not cancel towards a fellow servant. Not content with choking him, he also put him into prison. The other servants soon informed the master of such cruel behavior. He withdrew his cancellation of debt and turned the servant over to the jailers “until he should pay back all he owed.”

Jesus’ words were very sobering: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

We can see from this verse that to the degree we are grateful to our heavenly Father for the enormous debt He forgave us, to that degree we should, from our hearts, forgive our brothers and sisters. If we find we cannot do so, perhaps we are not really aware what our sin cost Jesus Christ on the Cross.

I cannot forget Corrie ten Boom’s story regarding an experience she had in Munich after the war. She was approached by a former SS guard who had been a guard at the shower room at Ravensbruck. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein—to think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” He thrust out his hand to shake hers. She who had preached so often about the need to forgive kept her hand at her side.

Quoting now from the last chapter of The Hiding Place:

“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.

“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.” [italics added]

Notice it came from the heart, not manufactured by her, but in answer to her prayer, “I cannot forgive; give me your forgiveness.”

It is always good to have forgiveness ready in our hearts in order to grant forgiveness to others. I think there is no better way than to dwell on the magnitude of the debt of our sin that Jesus Christ bore on the Cross.

Think of the small debt owed to us, the wrong done to us, the words spoken to us and about us, and put it in relation to Jesus, our Lord, saying, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

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