By Clayton Owen/FBC Education Minister
But let’s be honest, offering it can be tough. The principle of forgiveness is very important because of its potential positive or negative impact on our lives and as well as the lives of those in our circles of influence in His ministry. Thank goodness, Jesus addresses it very clearly in Matthew 5:38-48.
In these passages, Jesus challenges us to be a people of radical forgiveness,-which is quite a contrast with the prevailing attitude of our ‘get-even’ world. But we ask, even as Christian there must be exceptions to the rule of forgiveness? Well here’s the Biblical standard-Christ. When we look to Christ, we see one who is willing to completely forgive, so as His children, He expects us to follow in His steps.
Let’s be clear, forgiveness does not mean you are saying what a person did was acceptable, that the natural consequences from their behavior should be removed, or that a broken relationship needs to be restored to its previous status. Biblical forgiveness means you are giving the offense or ‘perceived offense’ (be careful you don’t make an assumption based on one side, or with limited context) to God.
When you were initially forgiven by God, your sins were placed on Jesus who took the full punishment you deserved. That initial action on your behalf didn’t mean that your sins were suddenly ok, or that the immediate consequences were removed, but it did mean the eternal consequence of separation from God was removed.
This forgiveness wasn’t conditional or partial; it was complete. As a result, we now have the opportunity to continue in right relationship with Him by keeping our lines of communication with Him open through daily confession.
As His children and representatives, He expects us to follow this example of radical forgiveness. We are to give any ‘wrong’ we’ve experienced to Him. When we do, we experience these benefits: (1) our walk and witness for Him isn’t hindered; (2) God uses our forgiveness of others as a sampling of His full forgiveness; (3) and as we forgive, God leads us to pray for the offender(s). We learn to pray with the hope our offenders will recognize and own the offense, that God changes their heart, that they make any needed restitution, and that they will come to know and live out God’s will.
These passages do acknowledge that forgiveness will be difficult at times. But the radicalness of forgiving those who might strike you (v.39), sue you (v.40), bully you (v.41), or who stand in opposition to you (v.43), allows God’s forgiveness to be so clearly seen.
This is a tough standard, but God understands that if we don’t forgive, anger, bitterness, evil thoughts, and negativity can creep into our lives impacting our relationship with Him and our ministry done in His name.
So in your journey to be like Jesus, commit to be a person of radical forgiveness! Trust in His strength to forgive, and as you do, watch Him use your example to positively impact others.