Restoration Through Forgiveness – Part One

The challenge of forgiveness is perhaps one of the hardest things for believers in Christ and non-believers alike to come to terms with. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the offence has been great or small, real or perceived; all of us, throughout many occasions in our lives will come face-to-face with the choice as to whether or not we will forgive. The challenge with all forgiveness is in making the right start. The key to forgiveness is in choosing the right way over the wrong way. Once we have begun on that journey, it makes it a lot easier to follow through. Forgiveness must come from our hearts.

Forgiveness is an Issue of the Heart

Forgiveness is something which flows from the heart. When we experience difficulty in forgiving others, that difficulty is there because of something deep within our hearts. We need to keep asking God about these areas and to allow Him to continue to minister healing to our hearts, so that we can continue to forgive. For Jesus said, we must forgive from our hearts! – See Matthew 18:35.

Jesus also said,

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”

Luke 6:45
  • Forgiveness is a good thing to keep stored up within our hearts!

Keep Being a Merciful Servant

When Jesus was teaching His disciples about forgiveness, He told them a parable about the unmerciful servant. In this parable, a king was settling his accounts with his servants. A man owed him 10,000 talents – perhaps todays equivalent of millions of dollars; but was unable to pay back his debt. So he begged his master for mercy. The master had compassion on him, cancelled his debt and let him go.

But later, that same servant, found a fellow servant who owed him only 100 denarii – perhaps today’s equivalent of a few dollars. He took him by the throat and began to choke him, demanding he pay back what he owed. This servant too begged for mercy. But instead of receiving mercy, the unmerciful servant had him thrown into prison until he could pay back the debt. On hearing of this, the master called for the unmerciful servant, for whom he had already forgiven a much greater debt.

Matthew 18:32 – 34

Jesus then told His disciples,

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:35

The Double Standard of Legalism

When we have not dealt with the issues within our hearts regarding our need to forgive others, the hurt can seem so deep, or the act of forgiving seem so hard, that we may instead look for a way out. Then, instead of extending grace to those who have hurt us, we may begin to attach conditions as to whether or not we will forgive, effectively placing others under the law.

I believe some have taken this same parable of the unmerciful servant that Jesus showed, and have done just that. Seeing that the unmerciful servant and his fellow servant both begged for mercy when they could not pay, many have wrongfully made a law or a rule out of its presentation in Scripture. These people may then wrongly say “I only need to forgive someone if they ask or beg me to, and therefore I can withhold my forgiveness if they don’t.”

But is this really what Jesus is saying when using this parable?

I believe what Jesus is doing within this passage of Scripture, is not making a rule or a specific law on forgiveness; that we only need to forgive if the person asks or begs us to; but that He is addressing a heart issue. I believe the heart issue Jesus is addressing, is that we are not to have a double-standard. We have been forgiven much and have received mercy from God for our many sins, and God does not want us to have a double-standard and do any less for others by refusing to forgive them their sins. We are not to behave in any way that causes us to be unmerciful towards others. God’s judgement and mercy go hand in hand. We cannot separate the two. But all righteous judgement belongs to God and God alone. .

There is no Limit to Christ’s Forgiveness

One of Christ’s disciples, Peter, came to Jesus and asked,

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21 & 22

Jesus is effectively saying; There is no upper limit on the number of times we are to forgive! Even when the same person sins against us over and over again. As many times as they sin against us, we are to continue to forgive. This is for our own benefit, not just for those who may have offended us. It does not mean we are to trust people who show no sign of genuine repentance or who do not show a consistent change in their wrongful behaviour, or that we don’t keep appropriate boundaries in place to protect ourselves and subsequent others. But despite these factors, we must continue to choose to forgive.

Keep Affirming Your Love for Your Brother

In a similar passage recorded in the book of Luke, Jesus said,

Luke 17:3 & 4

Again, I believe some have looked at this passage of Scripture in Luke and wrongly made a rule or a specific law out of it, saying, “I only need to forgive someone if they come to me and repent for what they’ve done.” I believe instead, that Jesus is addressing another major heart issue. That a person with a genuine penitent heart is in need of compassion and healing when they realize they have done something wrong. For this reason we are not to refuse forgiveness when someone asks for it, as Christ does not refuse us when we genuinely repent, no matter how many times we fail. Again, I believe this is a heart issue that Jesus is addressing. That He is not making a law or a rule about the person’s need to be repentant before we must forgive.

The Apostle Paul addressed this same need for the offender’s healing in his letter to the Corinthians, asking them to affirm their love for their penitent brother, and to forgive and comfort him, so that he would not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent – not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to re-affirm your love for him.”

2 Corinthians 2:5 – 8
  • Christ’s desire is that all should be healed and made whole.

Christ’s Compassion for Those Who Offend

Jesus Christ is our greatest pattern or example to follow concerning forgiveness. When Christ hung dying on the cross He cried out,

Luke 23:34

On the cross, though He knew it was God’s plan, Christ expressed His compassion for those who were crucifying Him. Apart from the thief who was crucified beside Him, Christ understood, that though those who condemned Him to death showed no outward sign of repentance, He knew that they were spiritually blind – and He had compassion for their spiritual blindness. In the book of Revelation, at the end of the New Testament, Jesus Christ expresses His heart for those who have been spiritually blinded.

Revelation 3:17 – 20

We should likewise be praying, that the eyes of the blind would be opened, so that they too may come to repentance, be healed and freed from the consequences of their sin. The Apostle Paul said,

“What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:21 – 23

Many, instead, want the offender’s eyes to be opened out of harshness or a hardness of heart. They may simply want the offender to admit they were wrong for their own agendas, or in order to justify their own wrongs or their right to feel hurt. But this is not God’s heart in any way for those who are lost, or for those who have sinned. The true heart of God is not to justify our unforgiveness – for all unforgiveness is sin – but to bring restoration and healing to all parties concerned. James the apostle says,

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

James 4:17

Jesus Taught we Are to Forgive Everyone!

  • Christ’s heart is that He longs for right relationship.
  • Christ’s heart and ministry are one of reconciliation.
  • Christ’s ways will never contradict His heart or His nature – which is to redeem a fallen nation.
  • Christ did not create rules or laws on forgiveness that contradict His word elsewhere in the Bible.
  • We need to keep the whole counsel of God.

In the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ teaches us to pray,

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Luke 11:4

The Greek word used for ‘everyone’ in this Scripture is translated ‘pas’ – meaning, ‘each; every; whoever; the whole; any.’ There is no condition in the Scripture above regarding the act of forgiving, that says the offender has to have repented, to have requested forgiveness from us, or even to have acknowledged that what they have done was wrong. Jesus simply states that we are to forgive everyone who sins against us – and we leave the eternal judgement up to Him.

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained (This, speaking of Jesus Christ). He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Acts 17:30 – 31

“And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He (again, this is speaking of Christ) Who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.”

Acts 10:42

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, Who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”

1 Corinthians 4:5

– See also 1 Peter 1:17; Romans 3:5 & 6; 2 Timothy 4:1.

We are His Merciful Servants

Using these same teachings of Jesus, Matthew records, that God will forgive us, as, or in the same way that we choose to forgive others.

“Forgive us our debts, AS we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Matthew 6: 12

Christ showed this same heart attitude when He spoke to His disciples about the equilibrium of judging, condemning and forgiving others, saying,

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37 & 38
  • The same measure of forgiveness we use for others will be measured back to us.

Judgement Without Mercy for Those who Refuse to Forgive

The Apostle James instructs us,

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

James 2:12 & 13

The purpose of the law is to bring us into complete freedom – including freedom from all sin. Mercy triumphs over judgement. Jesus said that if we do not forgive others, then neither will our Father in heaven forgive us.

  • Our choice of whether or not we forgive others is directly linked to God forgiving our own sins.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against ANYONE, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Mark 11: 25

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14 & 15
  • Harbouring unforgiveness against others will affect our own Salvation and eternity with Christ!
  • Harbouring unforgiveness places in jeopardy, our own eternity with Christ!

This is what happened to the unmerciful servant in Matthew Chapter 18. He was turned over to the jailers to be tortured because he did not forgive the debt from his heart. Jesus Christ instructs us concerning all ministry to all men,

Matthew 10:8
Matthew 5:7

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Dear Heavenly Father. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I am sorry for the sins I have committed and I ask You to forgive me. I now turn away from all the things that I know to be wrong and I receive Your Holy Spirit and Your gift of eternal life. Thank You for this free gift of Salvation and eternal life. Help me to come to know and experience Your love for me more and more, and to now share the love You have given me with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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What next: Once we have started our relationship with Christ – it is important that we continue to grow in our understanding of Him, and experience His love for us on a regular basis. God does this for us as we read the Bible, which I encourage you to do on a regular basis, asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand it and make it “come alive” to you in a very personal way. May I encourage you to do this every day, and to actively pursue those things that God reveals to you. We also need to be spending time with other like-minded Christians on a regular basis, who are also growing in their relationship with God. We gain encouragement from being with other growing believers. Ask God to lead you to a Bible-believing church (or Bible-believing Christian group) that will encourage your relationship with Christ and help to meet your needs. Ask Him, and trust that He will guide you to the place of fellowship that is right for you.

May God both work in you and through you, those things that He desires, as you continue to submit your life to Him each day.