The Nature of Forgiveness

Yesterday we looked at our need for forgiveness, but what does that look like in the life of a believer? To forgive is to not only accept an apology for a transgression counted against oneself, but to also count it as though it had never been done.

How can this be?

This parable begins with Peter asking Jesus how often he is required to forgive his brother (presumably for a repeated offence). This is the wrong question. This question is asked in the “do I have to…” sense (“Do I have to forgive him if he does the same thing seven times?”). Jesus tells Him what forgiveness of the Father is like (“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to…”). The debt that the first servant owed was so great that we can (and should) compare it to the debt owed by our sin. But praise God! He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5.21).

Righteously Forgiving

As believers we should be eager to show the same love and forgiveness that the Father shows through Jesus. The Spirit enables this forgiveness, and it should be the joyful outpouring of a forgiven soul. So instead of grudgingly forgiving someone, when they sin against us (and, more importantly, God) we should look at how He forgave us and act in the same way towards others.

And if they do it again…

Being human means that we stumble in many ways (James 3.2); we are going to sin even after being forgiven. Some Christians don’t forgive others because they don’t want to get hurt. But God forgives even though he knows we’re going to keep sinning. Consider the woman caught in adultery. To her, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8.11) Do you think she stopped sinning? I doubt it. but Jesus forgave her even though he knew her heart. In the same way, when we forgive, we are to encourage the offender to “sin no more” but remind them that there will be forgiveness and grace waiting for them when they fail again.

Why not keep sinning?

If I can be forgiven by God over and over again, and if the Church has to forgive me every time, why not keep sinning so that they have all the more opportunity to forgive me?

Besides the fact that this contradicts Jesus’ command to sin no more, Paul speaks against this type of thinking in Romans 6.1-14. The point of his message is that continuous sinning contradicts the profession of faith in Christ; it crucifies him all over again, this time, not for our benefit.

Let us remember how we are forgiven and learn what it means to not only live in light of it, but give mercy as we have received mercy.


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