Forgiveness is Hart Part 1
Forgiveness is Hard Because it is Misunderstood
What people think of when they use the word forgiveness and what the Bible means by it are usually two very different things. You see, the things of God cannot be understood by the mind of carnal man. His ways are too far above us. The only way for us to know God and His ways is for the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus (the Word of God) to us. Forgiveness is one of God’s mysteries that must be understood from Christ’s perspective, not ours.
The typical Christian’s idea of forgiveness is that “I’m going to be the bigger man here. Even though I’m the victim of this person’s sin and I’m the one who was unjustifiably hurt, I’m going to take the moral high ground. I refuse to sink to their level, and I’m going to try to forget what was done to me. Let’s hope that they can grow in God and do better. Man, I hope they learn from the example of my forgiving nature and that I can eventually learn to trust them again. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…” This concept of forgiveness is NOT from Jesus. It has the outward appearance of holiness but hides an inside that is full of deceived (and smug) self-righteousness. While it is certainly true that we are often the victim of attacks in this life, we are never the ones that are sinned against. We can’t be.
The Bible says in Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
When the Bible was translated from Hebrew and Greek into English, one word of this verse was mistranslated. It was the word ‘and’. Paul actually said that “All have sinned for they fall short of the glory of God…”
I am not a sinner merely because of that little white lie I told or that thing I stole, or the pride that I struggle with. No! I am a sinner because I do not measure up to the glory of God. Even if I never did a single thing wrong in my life, I would still have to ask God’s forgiveness continually because I cannot measure up to the standard of His Son Jesus. Therefore, even though we are often hurt, attacked, and slandered when someone does wrong, the sin is not against us. We are simply collateral damage in mankind’s rebellion against God.
While Jesus was dying on the cross, the high priests started mocking Him. With the weight of all eternity’s sin bearing down on Him, as He hung there becoming every rape, every murder, every impure thought, every abortion, as He became sin, the high priests mocked Him. So what does Jesus do? He cries out loudly and implores His Father to “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” Have you ever noticed that He didn’t say “I, Jesus, forgive You?” This is because (although He had personally done no wrong) He was in human form and was weighed down with the sins of humanity. Therefore, He left it to His Father to be the judge. And then, Jesus being Jesus, He cried out for mercy and grace for us.
Godly forgiveness isn’t about us choosing to be better than our natural selves or the other guy. It isn’t about us being Christians and therefore held to a higher standard than those around us. Nothing stinks in the nostrils of God like self-righteousness. True forgiveness is about recognizing that the ground at the foot of the cross is perfectly level and that all people stand there falling short of His glory. When I choose to truly forgive, I must recognize that I too have fallen short. And…”But for the grace of God there go I.” I am in no position to render judgment. True forgiveness will prompt you to empathize and then sympathize with the one who hurt you. It will ultimately bring you back to repentance for every time you felt the same urge to do wrong, and it will make you cry out for God to be just as merciful, gracious, and redeeming to them as He has been to you. True forgiveness reflects the heart of God like nothing else. Let’s purpose in our hearts to seek the face of Jesus until we understand this from His point of view.
Pastor Ed Brewer