A sign in a convenience store said, "Check cashing policy: to err is humor, to forgive, $10. Everybody makes mistakes. Forgiveness costs. Usually more than ten dollars. It often costs your pride and anger. But it is worth it.
Forgiveness is precious. Imagine the world without it. Husbands who
don't forgive their wives and wives who don't forgive their husbands.
Parents who don't forgive their children and children who don't forgive
their parents. Employees and employers, friends and neighbors, merchants
and customers, rulers and citizens. Imagine a world where everybody
resented and punished every wrong done to them. Imagine a world of pure
justice without mercy. I don't want to live in that kind of world, so
I believe in forgiveness. By that I mean two things. First
We believe in being forgiven, though we don't really want it. Why? Because being forgiven is so hard on the ego. That's why we tend to avoid those we hurt. We remember the wrong we did and suspect they do too. Hurt and shame combine like stones and mortar to build walls between the offender and the offended. Forgiving others leaves our self-esteem intact. Being forgiven is a blow to our vanity. That hurts. It hurts to sacrifice our selves, our pride, our indignation, our spirit of revenge, our self-righteousness.
I believe in being forgiven because I know how much I need it. God
not only pardons, he forgives. Pardon is a legal thing; forgiveness
is a personal thing. It has feeling in it. Sin is personal. It is done
not just against a law but against a Person. It is a violation of His
love. Pardon removes the guilt but not the pain our sin caused Him.
He must be reconciled to us and we to Him. There must be a restoration
of a warm personal relationship between us and God. The Judge must become
our Father again, take us back into his family. That's forgiveness!
"If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
I BELIEVE IN
Forgiving is difficult. It is hard because it is against human nature. Revenge, not forgiveness, is our natural response to offenses. To return evil for good is devilish. To return good for good is human. To return good for evil is divine (Romans 12:17,21). It is an outrageous act a voluntary forfeit of our right to fairness, a surrender of sweet revenge.
Forgiveness is difficult because it is dangerous. People take advantage those who forgive. That's why they sometimes have to do it seventy times seven times. It is risky. But on the other hand, if you choose to be safe and practical, you will never forgive and you will never be forgiven. And that's not very practical.
In January of 1990 after the fall of the Berlin wall Erich Honecker,
the brutal and hated dictator of East Germany, found himself sick and
homeless. So despised was he that no one could be found to provide him
shelter. They contacted Pastor Uwe Holmer who directed a church-run
convalescent center in the village of Lobetal. Pastor Holmer had bitter
memories of Honecker and his regime. Honecker had personally presided
over the building of the wall, the wall that separated Holmer's family
and kept him from attending his own
Pastor Holmer's charity was not shared by the rest of the country. Hate mail poured in. Some members of his own church threatened to leave or cut back their giving. Pastor Holmer defended his actions in a letter to the newspaper. "In Lobetal," he wrote, "there is a sculpture of Jesus inviting people to himself and crying out, 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' We have been commanded by our Lord Jesus to follow him and to receive all those who are weary and heavy laden, in spirit and in body, but especially the homeless What Jesus asked his disciples to do is equally binding on us."
Forgiving is hard and forgetting is even harder. Resentments, like toxic waste, bubble up to contaminate the rest of life. The problem is not so much what we remember, but how we remember. We can remember with hate and vengeance, like the man who said, "I don't get mad; I get even." Or we can remember with grace and mercy, considering how much God has forgiven us. Forgiveness is difficult because we don't believe ourselves to be forgiven. Hence we need a defense. We need to see others as being at least as guilty as we.
But everything changes when we see the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven us. Then, we are set free to forgive others. God's mercy to us becomes a spring of mercy in us unto others. Jesus illustrated this with a story. "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
"But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
"When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt."
That's the story. Now here's the lesson: "So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (Matthew 18:23-35).
Forgiveness begins with a decision and ends with a feeling: "from
To both I ask, "Do you believe in the forgiveness of sin?" If you do if you really do if you really, really do, you will no longer carry your burden of guilt or anger.