FORGIVENESS IS A LIFESTYLE
"'Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it's personal against you and repeated seven times in a day. and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I'm sorry. I won't do it again,' forgive him.'" Luke 17:3-4 (The Message).
What Jesus is advocating here is not reluctant and sporadic forgiveness but a generous and open-hearted attitude to people who offend us as a reflection of the Father's attitude towards us in spite of the way we behave towards Him.
Forgiveness is the foundation of our relationship with God, and His forgiveness stands securely on what Jesus did on the cross. He paid the debt of all the sin of all people for all time when He gave up His life as a sin offering for us.
When we sin against another person, we sin against God. David understood this. He had Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, killed in battle to justify his lust and adultery but, when his sin was exposed, he cried out to God, 'Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.' Psalm 51:4 (NIV).
Sin incurs an unpayable debt and only because of God's mercy, made available to us through Jesus, can He cancel our sin and clear our record of guilt. Because the blood of Jesus has washed us clean of sin for all time, there is nothing that can separate us from His love.
However, God requires a reciprocal attitude from us. Since He has already forgiven the sin of those who sin against us, we have no right to hold them guilty. To do so is to act illegally because we cannot demand payment for what had already been paid for. If we refuse to forgive another, we automatically cancel God's forgiveness of us. Now that is a scary thought! That means that we will experience separation from God and have to bear our own guilt.
Not to forgive our fellow man for the paltry things he does against us is to misunderstand the greatness of the debt we incurred against God and the enormity of His mercy that provided a way of forgiveness at the cost of His own Son's life. Because we tend to focus on what the other person has done to us rather than on what we did to God, we hold on to our offenses instead of letting them go because we can.
But there is something deeper to this issue of forgiveness. God forgave us through the death of Jesus to restore the unity between Himself and us because the entire universe can only function properly as a unit. When the relationships between humans remain fractured through offenses and forgiveness, the whole of life unravels, leaving in its wake chaos and destruction.
Forgiveness is God's way of restoring unity with Himself and unity between people. When we forgive and reconcile, we contribute to the healing of our world. When we refuse to forgive, we fail to co-operate with God in His work of restoring everything to its original purpose of reflecting Him in the universe. We add to the destruction of our world.
Since God has already cleared the debt of the one who sins against us, all that is required of us is to look the guilty person in the eyes and declare, "You owe me nothing." It's not about making excuses for their failure. It's about setting them free from their debt and restoring the unity that expresses who God is. And that is not only an act but a lifestyle.
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