The Freedom of Forgiveness

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
 
God calls His people to be like Him in their attitude and conduct. When God declares sin forgiven, it’s accomplished once for all. Past, present, and future sins are wiped clean from our slate. The Bible says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) 
 
Yet, in Jesus’ model prayer, he instructs us to regularly ask God to “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) Does God conditionally wait to forgive us until we ask Him? If we partially forgive our debtors, will He just partially forgive us?  How can we square this teaching from Jesus with our understanding about the nature of justification?
 
I heard an analogy recently that helped me understand this. All the forgiveness we will ever need is like a bank or inheritance stored up for us in heaven, but we must appropriate that forgiveness in our daily life by acknowledging our need for it now and by asking Him for what is already credited to our account in heaven. When we do so, we act as obedient children who are restored to full fellowship with our Lord.
 
Remember when Peter showed up to the last supper before Christ was crucified? Jesus humbled Himself to wash the disciples’ feet, but Peter would have none of that, apparently believing it would be beneath the dignity of Jesus to do such a menial task. 
 
But Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (John 13:8-10) Like Peter, the Christian’s whole body is clean, but our lingering sin—pictured here as our feet, needs to be cleansed in order to enjoy an unimpeded walk with our Lord. 
 
The Bible says love keeps no record of wrongs (see 1 Corinthians 13:5b). This doesn’t mean we can’t remember the wrongs, but that we will never bring it up against the offender to make it right. If we keep track of the number of times we have been wronged, we surely never forgave that person from the heart. But when we hold nothing against anyone, it frees our spirit to be like our God, who commands us to be holy as He is holy. God will ensure justice and vindicate His people. It’s not our role to do so.
 
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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