The Christian Duty to Forgive

Who hasn’t felt the pain of someone else’s attitudes, words, or actions aimed against them? To some extent, we may feel offended or slighted by those we care most about nearly every day. But there are also times in everyone’s life where significant pain has been inflicted by others. How do you handle these wounds to your soul?
 
This week, our devotions will focus on the parable of the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:21-35). The Bible’s teaching on forgiveness must be clearly understood and fully embraced. Jesus told the parable in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me. Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)  

This parable deals with brotherly responsibilities in the Christian community; it’s not about our eternal salvation, which is permanent. (It immediately follows Jesus’ instructions on how Christians should handle sin within the fellowship of believers.) 

How we respond to offenses against us depends on the gravity of the offense. If we were to confront everyone who annoyed or irritated us by what they said or did, we would never be able to enjoy human relationships. If you’re married, for example, just imagine how you would feel if your spouse confronted you with every slight offense you caused. Scripture is clear that we should be eager to forgive. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) 

However, there are times when offenses can rise to a level where they must be confronted. When you’ve been seriously offended—perhaps in a repeated or persistent way, you’re commanded to seek restoration by confronting your sinning brother. “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) And Jesus told Peter he must forgive not seven times but seventy times seven—suggesting a limitless number (see Matthew 18:22).

So, for most offenses we should be eager to forgive our brother, without the need for confrontation. But for major offenses against us, we’re always required to forgive when the sinning brother repents. And if we don’t forgive under these circumstances, we sin against God. If the offending brother does not repent, the Lord has prescribed the proper way to handle the rebuke (see Matthew 18:15-17).

Are you holding a grudge toward another Christian brother or sister? Decide now to forgive from your heart or confront them with your grievance so that your prayers and worship of God will not be hindered.

By Jim Connell

Jim and his wife, Becky, moved from Indiana to Lexington to establish the Lexington Rescue Mission. They have two married children, Laura and Brian.

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