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  • Love and Liberty

If You Do Not Forgive

God in his goodness teaches us through the relationships we have on earth. None more so than the marriage relationship. He not only teaches us how to relate to him through the marriage relationship, he teaches us how to relate to each other through our relationship with him. The relationships have their differences, but they also have their similarities.

“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

The man above humbly acknowledged his debt and obligation to the king and the king was moved with compassion. The king forgave the man of his debt. What a relief this must have been to the man to have this burden lifted. The man went about his way and saw one of his fellow servants, a man that owed him money. The fellow servant fell down at his feet, acknowledging his debt and obligation to the man and sought mercy. The man appears to have no compassion whatsoever, no remembrance of his own debt that was forgiven, and he lashed out at the fellow servant by grabbing him by the throat. He demanded that the fellow servant compensate him, or pay him what he owed. Forgiveness was not an option in his mind, for this debt was owed to him, it was not something for which he himself needed forgiveness. Others saw this lack of compassion and hypocrisy and they informed the king. The king referred to him as wicked, reminded him that he had been forgiven, and pointed to his duty to forgive as he had been forgiven. This angered the king and he delivered the man to the tormentors and withdrew his forgiveness of the debt. Leaving no doubt about the lesson of this account, the Lord Jesus said:

“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

We can come to the Lord in true humility and submission and acquire forgiveness of our sins, yet go out and refuse to be merciful to someone that has sinned against us and have our forgiveness rescinded. This does not fit the theology of some professing Christians, but it is written in the Word of God. Sin separates us from God:

“Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

This too contradicts the theology of some professing Christians, but there it is in black and white. We can try to explain it away or yield to the Word of the Lord. Though sin separates us from God, he is merciful and eager to forgive the person who rends his heart and submits to him.

“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Psalm 86:5)

God, who is holy and has never sinned, is eager to forgive the sinner who repents, yet we who have sinned may refuse to forgive the person that sins against us. Truthfully, we may find it easier to forgive someone we are not invested in, or have no relationship with, than someone close to us. The story of the prodigal son is as applicable to the backslider as it is the person who has never come to Christ. We can see the pain in the heart of God when his people backslide, but God calls the backslider back to himself with compassion and mercy. When we run to him he accepts us with open arms. But we can allow hurt and feelings of betrayal to cause us to harbor animosity and anger. Rather than show the mercy that God has shown to us even though we have sinned against him, we demand payment for what has been done to us. This does not minimize the sin that has been committed against the person. It is not wrong for the person sinned against to be angry, hurt, or in pain. Sin hurts and can separate us from a person as it does from God. Betrayal is painful. God knows this. God knows this better than anyone. But as God forgives, we are to forgive. It is a sin not to. The one who initially sinned against the other should have humility and be understanding that he or she has broken the heart of the other person and should grieve that his or her sin led to this state of affairs. The one who sinned initially deserves rebuke, and should be forgiven, if he or she repents. The Lord Jesus said:

“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

Forgiving as God forgives includes forgiving when one repents. God is a compassionate God. He does not want to hold our sins against us, but it would undermine his moral government to forgive us apart from humility and submission to him. So too in our marriage relationship, once the person repents in humility and submission, the one sinned against must take on the mind of Christ and forgive lest his or her forgiveness be taken away. Truly a lack of forgiveness can cause someone to be turned over to the tormentors, evil spirits that wreak havoc on the person’s mind. It is a tactic of the Adversary, to buffet our minds with the reasons why we should not forgive but must be compensated for what has been done to us. It may be that the one sinned against wants the one who sinned to undo what has been done, but we know this is an impossibility. Peace will never come through the sin being undone because it can’t be. Peace can only come when the sinner repents and the one sinned against forgives.

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