“Great peace have they which thy law, and nothing shall offend them” Psalm 119:165.
Forgiveness is topical. In the Middle East we see a terrifying cycle of violence and so forth that seems unstoppable. In South Africa the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission was set up to allow people to come to terms with what happened under apartheid and to move on. And in Australia major politicians refuse to say sorry for the stolen generation, until recently (last year) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd brought all the families in together – the Aborigines and the expatriate Australians. What a relief for everybody – Kevin Rudd won the hearts of everyone in Australia.
So what does the Bible say about forgiveness? Jesus said that offenses would come (Matt. 18:7). Thoughtless or intentional actions or words, can hurt and offend us. Typically our response may be a rush of anger, a desire to hit back at and to take revenge. Sometimes we withdraw our love, fellowship or friendship. Or we decide not to talk to them again.
We are all familiar with reasons why we shouldn’t forgive somebody who has hurt or offended us. “I was the one who was wronged here, it’s up to them to make the first move, or “How can I forgive them if they’re not even sorry.”
These are negative, sinful thoughts and emotions. Romans 12:19 tells us to leave revenge to God and not to take on His role. If we don’t, we hurt ourselves and grieve the Holy Spirit.
We’re to let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from us and to be kind and forgiving as God has forgiven us (EPHESIANS 4:29-31)
Bitterness is the common reason many people miss out on experiencing God’s grace in their lives, (Hebrews 12:15) says.
Besides its spiritual value, forgiveness improves our health, and relationships. Researchers have studied the social, psychological and emotional qualities of forgiveness in relation to peoples’ biological, physical and chemical responses. They’ve even studied how the brain works while it makes decisions about forgiving, and concluded that bitterness and non forgiveness cause a lot of physical and mental problems. These include high blood pressure, anxiety, irritability, short temper, depression, headaches and even heart attacks.
When we are hurt or offended what should we do? God clearly teaches us that we must forgive as he has forgiven us. It’s not a request – it’s a commandment. If we don’t forgive others, we are warned that God won’t forgive our errors or offenses (Matthew 6: 12-15).
So how do we forgive? (Matthew 18 and Luke 17 clearly tell us that we must go and see the brother or sister who has offended us. We should also ensure that we haven’t been too sensitive or too judgemental as Matthew 7:1-5 says.
The last thing we want to do is to use the Bible as a weapon to attack people. That’s getting even and it’s the wrong attitude.
Forgiveness is the core of our salvation.
God wants us to be overcomers, and to grow to be like Jesus (EPHESIANS 4: 13). Unfortunately, we’re human and we make mistakes. While we’re in this natural body it is inevitable that we will offend sometimes.
When Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times he would have known that the Jewish law (the Talmud) said that you were to forgive three times.
By saying seven times, Peter may have thought he was being righteous or generous. Jesus’ response to forgive 490 times (70 x 7) would have astounded him. Jesus was saying (implying that forgiveness has not limits).
Many people say it is easier to forgive when the other party says sorry or has a repentant attitude. That’s true, but we can still make the choice to forgive them. There was no repentance or sorrow from the people who condemned Jesus to death on the cross, but he still chose to ask His Father to forgive them, because they didn’t know what they were doing (LUKE 23:34).
Lack of forgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit and puts our salvation at risk. Let’s examine our lives so that we are not condemned in this area (1 John 3:21) and that we can have confidence when we stand before God’s judgement seat on day.
Resentment and bitterness can be a health hazard. Let’s always be ready to forgive one another. “Without forgiveness, there is no future.”