AS WE FORGIVE Forgiveness From Us As A Christian Virtue
Mr. Valentine Davidar
“And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Luke 11:4
Forgiveness is a virtue that needs to be the stamp of every Christian. We must be known as those who forgive. There is no qualifier for forgiveness. We do not forgive because the other person has repented, or has said sorry. We simply forgive!
This idea immediately puts many of us on the defensive. We wonder how this could be possible. The fear that probably grips us is this - “Won’t people take advantage of me?”
The simple way to understand forgiveness, in human terms, is in the parent-child relationship. Think of a child that disobeys her parents. The parents love the child and accept the child in spite of her disobedience. Though they are angry for while and may punish the child for the disobedience, yet the love and forgiveness that is embedded in acceptance, is always granted. The parents will never reject the child because of the disobedience. The parents will teach the child to ask for forgiveness as a good characteristic to learn. However, they will never make an issue about the child first asking for forgiveness before granting it! It comes naturally because of their love. The forgiveness is already given, regardless of the child asking for it!
Now, does the child take advantage of her parents since forgiveness is always available?
I think not. On the contrary, the child has a great sense of guilt and shame, when she deliberately disobeys her parents. She knows that she is now causing pain to those who unconditionally forgive and accept her.
Forgiveness actually draws the offender closer, with strong cords of love.
Therefore, this is how we live in our world and deal with people. We accept people and forgiveness, as mentioned earlier, is embedded in our acceptance. When we live this way, we draw people to the Saviour since they see a reflection of Jesus in our life of forgiveness
How Can We Live
Is This Possible?
Definitely, it is possible when we live in Jesus, under the filling of His Holy Spirit. The following are some of the symptoms seen in a person who forgives. We can check ourselves to find if these symptoms are being exhibited in us. If a symptom is not being displayed, then that would become the place, where we surrender ourselves to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.
The person who forgives is a very secure person. He will never be offended for any reason. People can say anything or do anything to this person, but he will be totally secure, knowing that all things are safe in Christ. He knows that he will never lose in any way, for Christ is his reward. Therefore he will not take offense, but will rather forgive and accept the offender.
The person who forgives will be a joyful person. When we do not forgive, we lose our joy and gladness. Sadly, we live in a very unhappy world, since we, and all those surrounding us, are ‘un-forgivers’. People, who do not forgive, suffer deeply and this suffering often leads to serious health conditions that sometimes prove fatal. So I would like to ask you - Are you joyful in spirit?
3. Caring and Sharing
The person who forgives will be an ‘others-centred’ person. When we do not forgive, it immediately robs us of the ability to be genuinely concerned about others. Life begins to revolve only around ourselves - our problems, our troubles and our worries, occupy our complete attention. Sadly, this is once again an all-encompassing malady of our present day society. We plug our ears and try to shut the world out. Forgiving others will lose us from the obsession with self and enable us to be others-centred.
4. Attention to Detail
The person who forgives is never hassled, but will give his/her attention to details. We live in a world that is very restless. Most people we meet are in a rush and do not take time to consider life and all its issues. They have so many things to do and are constantly looking tired and worn out. On the other hand, the person, who forgives, will be rested and will have time to consider the deeper issues of life and take appropriate and timely action.
5. Good Listeners
The person who forgives will be a good listener. Listening is a rare, but premium commodity these days. We find very few listeners in our world today. The irony is that we also live in a world full of people whose heartfelt cry is, “Will someone listen to me?” On the other hand, the person who forgives will know and understand the pain caused to the human heart and will be concerned to listen to that pain.
Take an honest, hard look at yourself against the above symptoms and may our Lord enable you to surrender the areas of your life where you are struggling, to Him.
Looking at the above symptoms we can immediately recognise, why our Lord wanted us to forgive others. These symptoms are a stark contrast to our present day, postmodern society. He wanted us to be a healing balm to a hurting world. When we forgive others, we will surely be powerful representatives of our Lord Jesus, to our world. The world will have no doubt about our identity. We will be known as ‘The Forgivers’.
Granting forgiveness is not just a good thing to do; it is the key that opens the door to living effectively and powerfully. When we refuse to forgive, it is tantamount to drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! How unutterably sad?
Forgiving Others Is A Mandate For Every Christian
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:14, 15
Forgiveness is the one aspect of our Lord’s Prayer that is repeated and emphasised. So, why has the Lord placed such a great emphasis on us forgiving others?
The pivotal Christian experience is forgiveness. To understand this aspect, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden, when man first sinned against God. Sin caused us to drift away from God our creator. We are lost without Him. The predicament of humanity separated from God is too frightening a dilemma. It leaves man rudderless and without hope. Sin is such a serious matter that it has not only separated us from our Creator, but has also closed our eyes from responding to His love. God has forgiven humanity and desires that all men receive forgiveness and be restored back to Him. Instead, man chooses to continue in his dark and lost condition.
So, how can man understand the forgiveness of God?
He can only do so when he experiences forgiveness from the Christian community.
A story is told of a man, who was rejecting God. One winter evening, he was at home, in front of the fireplace and it was snowing and very cold outside. Suddenly, he heard loud thuds on his window. He was startled and to his shock, he saw birds crashing into the glass window pane and falling down, hurt. The birds were trying to get into the warmth of his home, but did not realise that they could not get in through the glass window.
The man ran out, opened his garage doors and tried to shout and wave the birds into the warmth of his garage. The birds instead, grew frightened and began to fly back into the cold. He became angry with the birds and yelled at them to get into the garage, but the situation only became worse.
Suddenly, a thought came into his mind, “If only I was a bird, I could guide these birds into the garage where they would be warm and safe!” It was then that the whole plan of God’s salvation became clear to him. God sent His Son into the world, as a man, to restore our relationship with Him. The only way was for Jesus to die on our behalf and thereby forgive us of our rebellion against God. God loved us too much to leave us out in the cold to die! The man received the forgiveness of God that evening.
Therefore, this is our role as Christians. Only when we forgive people, is the world able to understand, what Jesus has given humanity on the cross, which is forgiveness. When we refuse to forgive people, we become a hindrance for others to come to Jesus and experience His forgiveness.
On one side, we claim to be Christians, which is Christ in us. Yet, on the other hand, when we do not forgive people, we became a terrible contradiction to the whole message of Jesus. That is why our Lord says that our own forgiveness is conditional, dependant on our choice to forgive others.
Every time we forgive people, we are loudly proclaiming the good news of Jesus to a rudderless humanity! Therefore our life mission is based out of a life of forgiveness. As we live a life of forgiveness and then share the Gospel, the receptivity for the Gospel is bound to be awesome.
If forgiveness is to be the basis of our life and mission, then let us be prepared to suffer. Suffering is the forerunner to forgiveness. Forgiveness, has the opportunity to be expressed only when suffering happens and that too, without a cause. Consider how we Christians are today. We resist suffering and therefore we are also missing out on the opportunity to forgive the person or persons, who cause us to suffer without reason.
Many in the Church expect the Christian life to be a bed of roses; smooth and without suffering. We do not realise that our Lord allows us to suffer so that we will have the opportunity to forgive those who cause us to suffer. When we forgive, we are loudly proclaiming to the world, the good news of Jesus, who forgives men their sin. So when we, as Christians suffer without a cause, let us learn to rejoice.
“For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
II Corinthians 4:11
Let us remember the heart of our loving God, who is constantly seeking to restore the broken relationship with humanity that has rejected Him. He does not want any man to perish in his lost condition. Only by receiving God’s forgiveness, can man return to Him.
May we bring His kingdom on earth by forgiving, as He has forgiven us!