When you hear the word forgiveness what comes to your mind? Webster’s Dictionary defines forgiveness as the act of forgiving; the state of being forgiven; as, the forgiveness of sin or of injuries; pardon or willingness to forgive. How do you forgive your best friend for an act of betrayal? How do you forgive your own parents for psychological damage or even abuse inflicted upon you in the earliest years of childhood? How do your forgive your spouse for falling in love with someone else? How do your forgive your children for adopting a way of life that seems completely alien to all the values you have tried to teach? It’s easy to forgive in general, but it’s almost impossible to forgive a specific wrong that has brought you deep personal pain. What would you do? Would you forgive that individual? A person who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as Savior would find it most difficult to forgive someone who had offended or betrayed them. Their first response would be to hurt them in some way or have nothing to do with them at all. However, for the believer who knows Christ as their Savior, the answer should be, “Yes, I forgive you,” however, that may be hard to do because of the old sin nature residing within us. Our first impulse or response would probably be like that of the unsaved person … to get even.
Please consider this true and very sobering story, which speaks so concisely to the heart and core of the subject of this devotional. If somebody killed your child, could you ever forgive him? By God’s grace, the raging desire for revenge might eventually die down within our hearts, but most of us would probably prefer never to see that person again or to help him in any way. Yet, that was not the reaction of Walter Everett, a Methodist pastor in Hartford, Connecticut. When Michael Carlucci was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Everett’s son, the bereaved father set an example that challenges all of us who claim Jesus Christ as Savior. Walter said he forgave Michael because people “won’t be able to understand why Jesus came and what Jesus is all about unless we forgive.” Was that mere rhetoric? Not in the least! Michael became a believer while in jail, and when he was released and wanted to be married, Walter performed the ceremony. If we have experienced the wonder of God’s forgiveness, we will forgive others as He has forgiven us through Christ (Ephesians 4:32). It may require an agonizing emotional struggle and fervent prayer on our part. And full restoration of the relationship may not occur, but with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can forgive, because we are forgiven.
While writing this devotional I was reminded of the parable by Jesus of the “Unforgiving Servant” found in (Matthew 18:21-35), which speaks about forgiveness. The parable concerns a servant who owed an enormous debt. It was so great that the king wanted the servant, his wife, his children, and all he owned to be sold as payment for his debt (v. 25). He asked for more time and promised to repay all he owed (v 26). But the amount was so huge that there was absolutely no way he could. Therefore, the king had compassion on him and forgave the debt. The servant, however, was heartless and showed no mercy to someone who owed him but a fraction of what he had owed the king (Matthew 18:28-30). Jesus wants us never to forget the importance of forgiving those who have mistreated or offended us in some way. How difficult it is to affirm Christ’s teaching about forgiveness, let alone put it into practice. Yet, in some cases it seems impossible to forgive once, let along seventy times seven, as Jesus required. Yet, forgiveness was at the very center of Christ’s teaching. It was his principal concern at the very hour of his death. As he hung there bleeding on the cross, with pain as great or greater than any of us will ever experience, he said so directly of those who delighted in his own death: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” My brethren, the more we become like Christ; the easier it will be to forgive others. Think about this passage of Scripture found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” When we think of how much He has forgiven us, we should be willing in turn to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you. We need to keep looking to Jesus Christ, as our example of forgiveness.
So, “How are you doing in the area of forgiveness”?