2003-07-12 - Forgiveness, Part 1
Originally Published 2000-05-17
Matthew 6:14-15 Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you.
Forgiveness is an action that most of us struggle with. Over the next several weeks, I want to look at four facets of forgiveness, which God has been trying to make me understand over the years. They are forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, asking God for forgiveness and accepting Gods forgiveness.
Eight years ago, a business partner committed unimaginable wrongs against me. They were not only immoral but also illegal. These transgressions were crippling. I will never forget a year or so after this event, when this person came to me asking for forgiveness. I am not proud of the fact that I simply said, "Sorry, I cant forgive you. I am not over this yet." This past Monday morning, this person showed up at my office to ask again for forgiveness. I was surprised at how God has softened my heart over the years, and I quickly assured him that all was forgiven. I then said, "just forget about it."
By Tuesday morning, my carnal self was asking, "Have I really forgiven him?" "Do I really want to forgive him?" Jesus words to Peter in the passage below echoed over and over again in my head. I think I understand this passage now. Forgiveness is an action that never ends. We keep forgiving seventy times seven.
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to him and asked, "Sir, how often should I forgive a brother who sins against me? Seven times?" "No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!"
When we truly forgive someone who has wronged us, it is one of the most freeing feelings that we can experience. Gone are our mental prisons created by harboring hard feelings, resentments, anger and the desire to get even. Forgiving another frees us from that persons actions against us, and then the healing can began. I am not sure that I can ever have a "normal" relationship with this former partner. Time and God will tell, but I am sure now, that I have acted as Christ wanted me to act. Jesus felt strongly about forgiving others. I can only find one place in the Bible where Jesus tells us to leave a worship service.
Matthew 5:23 So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Now lets get more practical with this forgiveness business. Forgiveness for the big wrongs against us is not the only forgiveness we must practice. Early on in my career, I learned to "let people off the hook." It is a great form of forgiveness that people do not forget. I believe these simple acts of forgiveness have led me to be more successful, not only in business but also in life.
Here are some everyday examples from my life: My assistant forgets to mail a letter, my car is not ready at the promised time, a driver cuts me off, the drive-through person hands me the wrong order and so forth. It is so freeing to simply say to them, "its ok; dont worry about it." It frees us from building up anxiety and stress over small things, and as an added bonus, these simple acts of forgiveness hone our skills to forgive even bigger offenses. Most importantly, we practice what Christ taught us and commands us: Forgive others as He forgives us.
Next week, we will look at forgiving ourselves. I can tell you now, that this is the type of forgiveness that is the most difficult for me.
Father, thank You so much for forgiving us of our sins against You. Help us to follow Your example by forgiving those around us. Increase in each of us a hunger and desire to be more forgiving, and in the process, more like Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.