We may have the idea that if we forgive, we are somehow saying that what the person did was not hurtful. We may think that offering forgiveness is making light of the damage that the person did, implying that the pain we went through is not significant. The problem is… this belief leads to a very significant problem, because it will prevent us from ever forgiving.
If we put a limit on what we are willing to forgive, then anything that hurts us beyond our “limit” is an offense that can’t be forgiven. And that, simply put, is disobeying God’s command to forgive… which is sin.
If your husband forgets your birthday or your anniversary, you can probably find a way to forgive him. There was some hurt, but it wasn’t so much that it can’t be forgiven. But if he is unfaithful, the hurt is obviously much deeper, much stronger, and much more significant. Believing that you can’t forgive because the offense was simply too great will lock you into unforgiveness. The first sin was your husband’s unfaithfulness, and HE is responsible for that sin. But if you don’t forgive, YOU because guilty of breaking God’s command to forgive.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean there was not significant pain. In reality, just the opposite is true. The greater the offense and the deeper the hurt, the more beautiful and powerful the forgiveness. Forgiveness shines brightest when we see it extended to the darkest sins. The hurt and pain we feel when someone sins against us is both real and significant, but we can’t let that keep us from following God’s command to forgive.
Romans 5:5 For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.
Forgiveness means that God’s love that fills us is more powerful than the offense against us.
Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Ephesians 5:1-2 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
T.J. Lane took the lives of 3 people, an injured 3 others, leaving one young man paralyzed for life. The hurt and pain T.J. Lane caused is clearly significant. Nothing the court can do will ever restore the lives of those he killed, reduce the trauma for those who were injured, or make the paralyzed young man walk again.
TRUTH: FORGIVENESS IS VERY COSTLY, AND TOTALLY UNFAIR
In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus told a parable about two servants of a King. One servant owed an enormous debt. The servant begged the king for mercy, asking for time to pay the debt… which was ridiculous because the debt was far beyond anything he would have the ability to ever repay. The compassionate king showed mercy, and chose to forgive the servant’s massive debt. In effect, because of the king’s mercy and grace, he voluntarily paid the debt on behalf of the servant. The king didn’t owe the debt, and had NO responsibility to pay the debt.
What was the cost of forgiveness to the servant? NOTHING! It didn’t cost the servant anything at all. But that does NOT mean that the forgiveness of the debt was FREE. Forgiveness came at an extremely high price for the king – it cost him millions.
The king chose, out of compassion, to pay this debt at great personal sacrifice. But isn’t that unfair? Why would anyone voluntarily pay a debt they don’t owe? It is ABSOLUTELY UNFAIR, and that is a critical component about forgiveness that we must understand. Forgiveness is extremely costly, and requires great personal sacrifice from the person offering it. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness is FREE!
Jesus wants us to see ourselves in this parable. We are the servant that owes a hopelessly large debt to the King. Jesus is the King. Our debt is payment for our sin against the King. God’s justice requires that sin be paid with debt.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus offers to pay the debt WE owe for our sin, and He willingly sacrifices Himself to pay the price. What could be any more UNFAIR than the perfectly innocent, sinless Son of God having sins He never committed laid upon Him to pay the price for people who were rebellious against Him, so that they can be set free by God and made clean and whole? It is horrendously unfair that He had to die to pay the debt we owe. It is the most unfair act in the history of all of God’s creation. An absolute and undeserved act of God’s mercy and grace.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
1 Peter 3:18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.
What could possibly motivate God to do something like that?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
His forgiveness doesn’t minimize His suffering at all… IT MAGNIFIES HIS LOVE FOR US!
Colossians 2:14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
If we are willing to receive His forgiveness, He asks us to follow His example and forgive others. He KNOWS that it will be costly to us, but He wants us to follow His example.
Romans 6:10-12 When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
Christian forgiveness requires us to die to our selfish and sinful desire for revenge and nail it to His cross.
John 17:19 [Jesus] And I give Myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.
1 John 3:16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Philippians 2:17a But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God.
Forgiveness is ultimately and completely UNFAIR.
Forgiveness is a SACRIFICE – giving up something costly…
and that is TRUE WORSHIP!
Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies [all that you are – mind, body, spirit, soul] to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.