Last Sunday’s message on forgiveness (Eph. 4:31-5:2) really struck home with a lot of folks. If you like you can call or email for a CD or listen to it online at our web site. I’ve had many of you who have come to me and said something like “I really needed that” or “Thanks a lot for the hit between the eyes.” And I get that. As I said, forgiving others is one of the hardest things we can do in this life, and also one of the most important.
And here’s why. Forgiving others is one of the things that make us most like our heavenly Father.
So here are a few follow-up thoughts.
Our salvation certainly can be affected by our UNforgiveness (Matt. 6:9-15; 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50; Eph. 4:31-32). But that doesn’t change the fact that we are still saved by grace through faith. Can we be forgiven of not forgiving? Yes. Does that give us permission to deliberately not forgive? No—read Romans 6. And forgiving others is something that in some cases, with some people, and with some sins, will take a lifetime to work through and struggle with. We cannot say, however, “Well, I’m just one of those kinds of people that has a hard time letting go of stuff and forgiving somebody that has wronged me.” Granted, it may be harder for you than someone with a different personality. Sexual morality, controlling one’s temper, telling the truth, and every other aspect of the obedient, Christian life, are all harder for some than others. We are not all tempted in the same ways, with the same sins. But they are still sins. This does not give us the justification to be disobedient to God. It may be harder for me than some others. But there are likely things that are harder for them than they are for me. Again, living faithfully doesn’t save us. We forgive because we have been forgiven, not in order to attain forgiveness. It is the right response to the love God has shown us. But it is response.
And as we said on Sunday, forgiving does not necessarily mean that there are no consequences, and that we must forget the wrong that has been done. That may not be humanly possible. But the question I asked Sunday was, “What are you doing with that memory?” Are you trying to leave it to the judgment to God? Or are you seeking to continue in the role of judge, jury and punisher yourself? That job’s taken, and it’s not yours. Trust God to deal with it. And let it go.
This leads to one other point I want to make, that I did not mention on Sunday. It is difficult—impossible—for us to forget some wrongs that have been done against us. Doesn’t mean necessarily that we haven’t forgiven, though we should do some evaluating and make sure. It may just mean that we’re human.
And that’s what’s different with God regarding our sins. Not only has He promised to forgive, He has promised to forget. These words bring us great comfort and amazement, and call us to fall down in worship and love and praise before our great God.
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)