Bible Wisdom

Forgiveness

What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

We have all experienced pain at the hand of another person. Perhaps someone was intentionally rude, hurtful, or dishonest, sullied our reputation, violated our freedom, or insulted a value we hold dear. Perhaps they offended us unintentionally. Whether unintentional or intentional, what can we do with the pain we feel? We can choose to hold on to that pain and rehearse it over and over in our heads until we figure out a way to make that person pay for their insult. We can withhold love or abandon the relationship altogether. When we do this, we think that we become like jailers, locking up the offender until their offense has been paid in full. But what we eventually realize is that we become the prisoner, locked up in a cage of our own bitterness.  It is we who are robbed of joy, sleep, and health, not the offender. 

The Bible talks of another way, the best way, to deal with offense: forgiveness. Jesus used many stories, called parables, to illustrate reality. He told this parable in response to his disciples’ question about the obligation to forgive:

 “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

In the story there is a master. He is representative of God. The servant represents humanity. We all have sinned and because God is an eternal God, even a “little sin” puts us eternally in debt to God. But God has made a way for us so that He could show us mercy.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus was the sacrifice for us. If you believe in Jesus and receive His death as a sacrifice for your sins, then God has mercy on you and forgives all your past and future sins. We are like the servant in the story that owed a debt so big that he could never repay. But God, as the master in the story, showed mercy and does not hold our sins against us anymore. 

There is another person in the parable, the “fellow servant.” That fellow servant’s debt, in comparison to the debt of the first servant, is miniscule. Yet the servant who was forgiven his debt does not extend that same mercy to his fellow servant for a much, much smaller debt. He throws the fellow servant in prison! That “fellow servant” is representative of anyone who has wronged us. Because of the forgiveness that we have received we can no longer withhold forgiveness. In fact, Jesus ends His parable with a strong warning if we do not forgive. 

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35

If God has canceled our debt to Him we cannot demand that others pay their debt to us. That is what forgiveness is, it is the canceling of a debt. Therefore, we can no longer make the person who has wronged us pay with our sharp words, angry glances, gossip, or cold shoulder. Instead, we must extend the same forgiveness we have received from God to another “fellow servant.”

What forgiveness is not:

-Forgiveness is not forgetting a grievance or pretending it never happened. Forgiveness is acknowledging the grievance but choosing not to hold that against the other person.

-Forgiveness does not erase the other person’s wrong and put a stamp of approval on what they did. Forgiveness is releasing them of their debt to you and you stepping back out of the place of judge. It is remembering that God is the judge and that other person is answerable to Him and not to you.

-Forgiveness does not always erase the need for an earthly consequence. As an extreme example, if someone murders someone you love you can forgive them but they will still need to go to jail.  Forgiveness is a heart posture where you release the debt they owe you. In this example of the murderer, you would pray for them to receive mercy from God and to find God’s love. In another situation, if you have been physically abused by a family member you would never let that same family member watch your children. You protect the weak and vulnerable while having a heart posture of forgiveness towards that person.

-Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice. When you see that person or hear their name you may have to deal with waves of anger. You choose in these moments to continually forgive. When you feel like treating them how they deserve, you choose to bless them instead. 

-Forgiveness is not instantaneous. You must make the choice on a very regular basis, as often as their offense comes to mind, to forgive them. Eventually, after training your heart in forgiveness, your emotions will match your decision to forgive and God will put His love in your heart for that person.-Forgiveness is not optional. Forgiveness is required by God. It is not reserved for the super spiritual. If you have been forgiven by God you must forgive others.

-Forgiveness is not instantaneous. You must make the choice on a very regular basis, as often as their offense comes to mind, to forgive them. Eventually, after training your heart in forgiveness, your emotions will match your decision to forgive and God will put His love in your heart for that person.-Forgiveness is not optional. Forgiveness is required by God. It is not reserved for the super spiritual. If you have been forgiven by God you must forgive others.

You are Loved

Everyone is looking for belonging, a person or a group of people that want to claim them. We want to know that someone sees us and gets excited to be around us. We want to know that we have someone that we can share our joys with and to have someone to lean on when life is rough. We want someone that we can get all dressed up for and someone we can be completely comfortable with when we are wearing our comfy clothes. We want someone who won’t reject us if we are not the smartest or the best or the most beautiful. We want someone to really look at the true us and give us full acceptance.  Ultimately, we want to feel loved. 

Studies on the psychology of music shows that roughly 60-67% of all songs are about love. We sing about it because it is on our minds. It is not just the desire of every human to be loved, it is a need. Studies show that it is critical for infants to receive love for their health, well-being, and survival. As we grow up we never outgrow the need to be loved. 

So, do you feel loved? Do you have someone or a group of people who love you on your best day and love you on your worst day? Do you have someone who really sees you, the true you, with all the flaws, and truly loves and accepts you? Even when we are blessed to have someone who loves us this way, we find that their love might fail because, well, they are human and human love is imperfect love. But you are loved! You are incredibly loved with a perfect love that will never fail. You are loved by God! He is infinite and He loves with an infinite love. He sees you! You may have felt invisible to other people, neglected, and unimportant. But this is not so with God! He knows you and He sees you! In fact, one of God’s names tells us this:

“ She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

You cannot hide anything from God. He sees it all. He knows every wicked thought you have ever had. He has a record of all your sins. God knows the things that you are ashamed of, things that you could never even admit to yourself. He knows everything about you.

“Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before him, and to him we must explain the way we have lived.” Hebrews 4:13

 But here is the amazing thing: He does not reject you! He loves you! He doesn’t require you to get your act together and live righteously before He loves you. No, His love is unconditional. You offer absolutely nothing to God. There is nothing that you can help Him with. You can’t instruct God. He doesn’t need your money or your time. He is completely self-sufficient.  But He loves you! Think of a mother with a brand-new infant. That baby is incapable of giving anything. The baby needs every one of their needs provided for but can offer nothing to the mother in return. Yet, the mother loves her baby! Her love is strong and fierce. She would fight for her baby. She would even give her life for her baby. That is how God loves you! He loves you because He created you. Like a mother for her infant He fights for you, and He has even sacrificed for you!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved,” Ephesians 2:4-5

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

When we were “dead in our sins,” God loved us. He loved us when we didn’t have any ability to turn to Him and repent. Because of our sins we are even considered “enemies of God.” He loved us enough to pay the ultimate sacrifice by the death of Christ Jesus. He loved us before we loved him. 

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10

You may have had to perform your whole life to feel love. Maybe you feel that you have to be smart or successful, strong or beautiful to receive love. That may be true of human love. But God loves you unconditionally. There is nothing that you can do to get Him to love you more and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less. You have all of His love. And, unlike human love, His love will never fail. His love will never cease.  

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

You are significant. You are valuable. You are important. Your value is not dependent on you. You are valuable because God loves you!

The Lamb’s Book of Life

Life seems so long. Sometimes the days seem like they are never-ending. What is here and now in the present feels like this is how it will always be. But have you noticed that the older you get the faster time seems to move? In observing younger people, you remember like it was only yesterday that you were in their shoes. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Our busyness just makes the time go all the faster. 

But then, someone we love dies suddenly and it feels like time stands still. All those little things that bothered us and filled our heads with worries don’t seem to matter anymore. We think about all the plans and dreams our loved one had but now will never get to fulfill. All their belongings can’t go with them. All their money doesn’t make the trip. All their desire to mend broken relationships are over. Time is up. During these times it is like the curtain between eternity and the present is opened and we begin to reflect on forever. We know in those moments that we are finite and that an infinite God made us. We know that we, too, will one day face God and all of our deeds will be laid bare before Him. Every thought we had, everything we did in secret, now exposed in the courtroom of Heaven.

God’s Word says:

 “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:2-5

The Word of God tells us who will be able to stand before God on that day of judgment when all the wickedness of our hearts is revealed:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

Who will be able to stand before God and be counted as righteous on the Day of Judgement? The answer is, “no one.” None of us are righteous. All of us have sinned. We cannot hope that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds and that God will pardon us. Why? Because our goodness will not be measured against ourselves. We will not be measured against other people. We will be measured against an infinitely good God. 

 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

Compared to God all of us are not good. All of us will fail the test. All of us do not measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. And so all of us are deserving of eternal separation from God in Hell. 

So what can we do? How can we escape this judgment? No matter how many good deeds we do we will never measure up to God’s goodness! Is there any hope? Yes! God has made a way for all of us. 

God’s Word talks about the Day of Judgement and the books that are opened.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15            

But nothing unclean will ever enter it (the City of God), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:27         

The books are opened before God on the Day of Judgement. The Bible does not specify what is written in those books. We can take a guess that everything we have ever done is written down and recorded in those books. What we don’t see is a scale to weigh our good against our bad. We are weighed against the goodness of God and we are all found wanting. The books only serve to condemn us to Hell. But, there is another book! The “Lamb’s Book of Life.” All whose names were written in that book are forgiven and enter into God’s rest. The Lamb is Jesus who died for the sins of the world. 

So how can you get your name entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life?

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Anyone who believes in Jesus, that He died and rose again and follows Him as Lord of their lives, will have their name  written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The sins in the other books will not count against them anymore.  Believe in Jesus today. He has done what you cannot do for yourself. He has lived the perfect life, was tempted in every way, and yet is without sin. He was sacrificed for your sins. Believe in His death and resurrection and He will write your name in His Book of Life.

More Bible Wisdom to come!