It sounds like an over the top statement. I need you to stop and think about the consequences of not offering or seeking forgiveness. I think that it can be summarized in two statements: broken relationships and a bitter person. Now I will expand on these, but I want you to think why the Bible mandates forgiveness for Jesus’ followers.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I think it is safe to say that all us have been wronged at some point in our lives. These offenses can come in many forms. The end result is that one person injures another person. The immediate result is a fractured relationship and the longer term effect of self-destroying bitterness. What I find sad as a Pastor is that many today lack the relational skills to resolve conflict. One does not need to look further that God’s Word for guidance on maintaining human relationships in a broken world. The reality is that where you have two people you have a need for forgiveness. That is why the Bible teaches, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Jesus also did not allow any wiggle room for not practicing forgiveness when he said, ““forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37c) Jesus reminds us of our ongoing practice of forgiveness in the Lord Prayer, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
Now there are several “Christian Myths” about forgiveness. First, forgiveness is optional, no, it is required. Jesus’ teaching on anger reminds us that we cannot truly worship until we go to the other person and attempt to resolve the issue. Second, “I cannot forgive them because I cannot forget what they have done to me.” No, again, because forgiveness is a choice to no longer hold the other person accountable for the offense. We know that God knows everything and yet he forgives us. We are called to do the same, not by forgetting, but by forgiving and letting God settle that matter. Third, “I cannot forgive because the other person will not talk to me.” Another excuse is “They will never forgive me,” or ‘they have done this before” or some other excuse. Yes, the desired outcome is when both parties can meet and humbly work things out and restore the relationship but that is not always the case. All that the Lord asks of you is that you do what you can do. You attempt to restore the relationship. You are the one that chooses not to hold onto the wrong but forgives the others person.
Let’s touch on why this is so important. First, when you forgive you are acting like Jesus acted. It is when you forgive another person for the wrong that you are most like Jesus by modeling what He did for you. Second, it sets you free. A wronged person is tempted to nurture the offense by obsessing over it, talking to others about it and letting it consume them instead of dealing with it. The Bible calls this bitterness. I love the saying, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The truth is, you wind of destroying yourself and tainting others. Third, the practice of seeking restoration frequently results in restored and strengthened relationships.
So where should we begin? Let me leave you with Jesus instructions. ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson