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Understanding Forgiveness the Way God Wants Us To

Forgive our debts as we also forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12

I had a constant inward battle for many years. Forgiveness was a big area of struggle for me. How could I truly forgive certain things that had been done to me? As time went on, I finally realized that the reason it was so hard was that I was completely wrong in my understanding of this whole concept.

My struggle to forgive was completely rooted in the wrong idea that forgiveness equaled accepting the behavior. In other words, it felt like it meant that I was affirming that what had been done was perfectly okay or justified and that the person was getting away with it. My thinking could not have been more wrong.

Forgiving someone has never, ever meant that you are giving the person a pass and that what was done is okay. In fact, just the opposite is true. Instead, true forgiveness recognizes that what was done was evil and has been handed over to Jesus Christ. It is no longer our problem to deal with.

This leads us right back to what our walk with Jesus is all about—faith. If we cannot forgive, then our faith in Jesus is severely lacking. Not only is our faith lacking, so also is our understanding of who God is. God is just. He is perfect justice. Absolutely no one gets a pass for sin. I think that many of us don’t understand this concept. It seems that because we have been forgiven, it feels like we got away with our sin. That is absolutely untrue.

In fact, it wasn’t until I came to the understanding of what happened with my own sin that I was able to forgive. In today’s culture we have become flooded with the attitude that our own sin is not that bad. If we don’t realize how bad sin truly is, we will not understand what it took to have that sin forgiven.

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47

This verse is about a woman who came to see Jesus. She was so overwhelmed by His forgiveness of her sin, that she washed His feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair while continually kissing them! This unnamed woman realized how completely awful her sin was and was amazed and filled with love for the God who would love her enough to forgive those sins. She showed a regret for her sin that I should have for my own.

When God actually showed me how bad my own sin was, it helped me to understand this woman’s feelings. Yes, God actually showed me. I asked and He answered. If you want to call it a vision, that’s okay because that is what I would call it. Here's what happened:

I had a serious pride problem. When I got confronted with it, I did not like it one bit. I asked God to show me if I were truly saved or not. What happened next was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to me...

This overwhelming darkness came over me. It was so thick that I literally fell to the ground. It was a moment of the most intense despair that I have ever experienced. The darkness was a darkness that could be felt! It was unbearable. But almost immediately afterward the most beautiful and comforting light surrounded me. It was like a blanket being wrapped around me. I sat up and began to cry. In an instant Jesus showed me the darkness of my sin, and then in the next, He showed me His extreme love and mercy. This was over thirty years ago. The intensity of what God did in that moment is still vivid and amazing.

God does not pass over sin, He paid for it. Sin is horrible, ugly, destructive, cruel, and any other wicked name you can call it, and…. Jesus paid for it. God desires the attitude of this woman in the gospel of Luke to be our attitude towards Jesus for His forgiveness of us.

If we brush off His free gift as something that was really no big deal, it is hurtful and cruel. We can look at it in this way: say you just purchased a beautiful mansion. It was everything you could have ever wanted in a house. But the mortgage is too much for you. After the first month you are in danger of losing your dream home. But out of nowhere someone who loves you dearly pays the entire mortgage. What’s more, is that they use every penny they have to do so. You are free and clear. You own your dream home!

Would you treat the person who paid it as if they should have done it? Would you tell them that you deserved it and that nothing should be expected from you to care for this home, but that it’s all their responsibility?

This would be a shameful response. Yet, this is how I used to treat Jesus and unfortunately, this is how it seems a lot of Christians treat their free gift of forgiveness.

In order to forgive others, we need to take a deeper look at the forgiveness we have received.

So now, let’s apply this to forgiving others. If someone who has deeply hurt you comes to you with great sorrow and regret, crying and hating what they had done to you…would you push them away? Or would you have compassion and forgive? I believe most people who have any kind of compassion would be able to forgive.

But what about those who don’t have this attitude, but instead treat you with contempt and act like they did nothing wrong? How do we forgive these people? That is where we give it to Jesus. Believe me, if these people are acting this way toward what they did to you, they are in reality doing this to Jesus. It was He who paid for what they did to you and they are despising His sacrifice.

How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has outraged the Spirit of Grace? Hebrews 10:29 ESV

This verse proves that God does not take the rejection of His Son’s sacrifice lightly, and He is absolutely going to deal with those who have done this. He also says:

Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

So when we look at forgiveness according to how God wants us to see it, we can understand that when we forgive, we are acting in faith toward God. If we still struggle with forgiveness, we know that it’s actually a problem of caring more about what someone has done to us than what they have done to Jesus.

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