Christian Churches of God
(Edition 1.1 19950413-19980723) Audio
The concept of forgiveness is central to the relationship we develop with God from prayer. This paper examines forgiving others in order to achieve forgiveness from God.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 1995, 1998 CCG, ed. Wade Cox)
(Summary ed. Wade Cox)
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We have considered the concept in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. One is conditional upon the other. But what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is actually an act of surrender. We surrender our right to hold another person accountable for what he or she did. A critical aspect to the understanding of forgiveness is that all acts that require forgiveness are acts that are offences against the law of God.
God forgives us
Our sins are forgiven when we repent and are baptised and this is conditional for receipt of the Holy Spirit. Thus the elect must be in a state of forgiveness to retain the Holy Spirit. It is that important (Acts 2:38; Col. 2:13-14).
The acknowledgment of our own sinful condition is a prerequisite (1Jn 1:9). Those whose sins are forgiven are blessed (Ps 32:1).
All sins will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31). Forgiveness is the prerogative of God - it belongs to Him (Ps.130:4; Dan. 9:9).
We have forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and blood (Eph.1:7; Col. 1:14 ).
We must forgive others
We will be forgiven by God as we forgive others (Mk 11:25-26; Lk. 11:4; Matt. 6:12-15). Thus the relationship of each person with God is directly dependent upon their relationship with their neighbours. Love arises out of forgiveness. It harbours no ill will and endures all things (1Cor. 13:1-8).
We are to forgive others because God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. We should endeavour to see the other person as God does and we should learn that God judges us on how we treat people in our debt (Matt. 18:23-35).
We should be aware of our own shortcomings. People will offend us and we need to learn how to deal with that in God’s way. When we repent God forgives us and it is forgotten (Heb. 10:17).
Mercy stems from repentance
If we repent of our sins daily we will partake of God’s mercy and so be able to be more merciful to others. Pride interferes with forgiveness. We often want the offender to suffer before we forgive. Revenge has no place in our lives. Only by good is evil overcome. Judgement and vengeance is the prerogative of God (Rom. 12:17-2; Heb. 10:30).
Peace is an active concept that requires forgiveness as a prerequisite. It may not be easy to forgive those who have not repented of their wrong towards us, but we must not be bitter towards them (Rom.12:14). We can forgive others even if they are not aware of it, but reconciliation needs the co-operation of both parties. Forgiveness is for giving and receiving.
We are required to forgive our enemies
Forgiveness of one’s enemies is not simply an intellectual process. The act involves actual prayer and fasting and the physical aspects of doing good to them. The commandments and the law apply equally to them (Ex. 23:4; Prov. 24:17).
We should ‘forgive and forget’, but it is not as simple as that. We need to remember in order to deal with the hurt and forgive the offending party. Then we can put it aside and get on with our lives. God can forgive and forget (Jer. 31:34 and Ps. 103:12) but the Bible does not command us to forget.
When we’ve been hurt we want to blame someone. The more we blame, or accuse, the more bitter and distressed we become. Blaming is shifting onto others the responsibility that should be ours, or using the fact of others’ guilt to excuse ourselves from having to respond in healthy ways to what was done to us. (Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller, Forgiving Our Parents Forgiving Ourselves, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1991, p. 253). (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, New York, NY, Harper & Row, 1984, p. 21.)
When we release the other person from their debt, we also free ourselves from the effects of the offence. God is the ultimate forgiver. So forgiveness has to do with ourselves, God and the other person. We need to deal with ourselves first and our relationship with God, so that we can then deal with the other person. If we go through life harbouring grudges, resentment, bitterness and anger, we have no place with God. We will not be exhibiting the loving, merciful and forgiving nature of our Heavenly Father. Our spiritual growth will be stunted.
Forgiveness breaks the cycle. It does not settle all questions of blame and justice and fairness; to the contrary, often it evades those questions. But it does allow relationships to start over. In that way, said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. It is not our capacity to think that makes us different, but our capacity to repent, and to forgive (Philip Yancey, "An Unnatural Act", Christianity Today, 8 April, 1991, p. 37). So remember - To err is human. To forgive is divine.
There are some five phases in the repentance cycle. These phases can be set out as a table. That table then can serve as a useful guide to future problems. They are: 1) Offence, 2) Establish individual responsibility, 3) Go to the person, 4) Litigation, 5) Reconciliation. (See the paper: Forgiveness (No. 112)).