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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Forgiveness

There is in practice in our society an event called an apology. Culturally, it is accepted in polite society. However, it is not a biblical word or concept. We read it in Matthew.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” (Matthew 18:15)

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 4:23-24)

In both cases reconciliation is the object. We assume it includes an apology. What is included is rebuke and forgiveness. We see this in several places in the New Testament.

The first is Luke 17:3-4, “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.”

Notice that the offender commits the offense seven times in one day and each time says, “I repent.” If I am the offended party I might suspect that this fellow who says, “I repent”, is not really repentant. He probably isn’t. However, that has no effect on whether I forgive him. I am not allowed to withhold forgiveness based on my judgment that he is not really repentant.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)


Matthew’s question may have been caused by the Luke 17:3 teaching. Jesus replies “seventy-seven times.” In either case the forgiveness has nothing to do with repentance or apologies. Not only is this forgiveness in quantity, it is also in quality.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

In the Lord's Prayer and in the comment on the Lord's Prayer we see the requirement to forgive.

“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.” (Matthew 6:12,14-15)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)


Forgiveness is not conditional.

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