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Author Topic: A Superlative Forgiveness  (Read 1865 times)
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« on: December 17, 2006, 08:16:35 PM »

                                                   A Superlative Forgiveness

                                   Matthew 6:5-15

Several years ago in an American city, a gang of skinheads beat to death a teenaged foreign exchange student from an Eastern country.  The parents came to claim their son’s body. As they left the plane, reporters mobbed them.

“You must hate the ones who murdered your son,” one commented.

No, we are Christians; we forgive them,” the mother replied. They demonstrated a superlative forgiveness.

Some demonstrate a superlative non-forgiveness. One such case was a Christian woman who told my wife and me how her husband’s family cheated her after he was severely wounded in battle and subsequently died in a veteran’s hospital.  With lies, deceit and misinformation they manipulated the armed services insurance agency into assigning them the insurance proceeds rightfully belonging to the widow and her young son.

“They did you a great injustice,” I agreed, “but you must forgive them.”

“I do forgive them, but I’ll never forget what they did!”

One Christian gentleman said regarding another, who wronged him, “I forgave him, but I’ll never invite him to my house again.” 

It’s been observed that forgiveness without forgetting is like vultures feeding on a dead carcass. It contaminates our prayers. If we want God to answer our prayers, we must forgive. Jesus coupled God’s forgiveness to our forgiveness of others. In His teaching on prayer, Jesus said, “This then is how you should pray . . . Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us . . .” From among the six petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus expands only on forgiveness; He assigns it top priority. “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in Heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (Matt. 6:14-15; Good News Bible; Today’s English Version).

Webster’s definition of forgiveness agrees with the Scriptures: “Giving up all claim to requital for an offense and giving up resentment on account of the offense.”  C.S. Lewis observed, “We all say that forgiveness is a wonderful thing, until we have something to forgive.”

Forgiveness is a three-phase process. In the first phase Jesus admonishes us, “So watch what you do! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent’, you must forgive him.’ The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Make our faith greater’” (Luke 17:3-5).

The “So watch what you do!” admonition is a critical one. It demonstrates we must forgive while searching ourselves to discern where we may require forgiveness in a matter.  We may be like a cartoon I once read: A little boy was crying because no one would play with him.  His discerning mother asked, “What did you do?” She learned he made such a nuisance of himself that he spoiled the fun of the other children; they boycotted him from their games. Jesus asks us to check what we may have done that deserves forgiveness and correction should problems arise between ourselves and another person.

The second phase in forgiveness also is found in Luke 17:3:  “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” In this passage, the word “rebuke” also may be rendered, “admonish.”  To admonish means to point out what needs correction in the person.  Sometimes, before we can admonish another, we first must permit God to admonish us.

A woman testified of how terribly abused she was as a child. She hated her father until she accepted Jesus Christ. She then prayed that the Lord would lead her father to ask her forgiveness for his treatment of her. Then he was hospitalized and she visited him. The Lord admonished her, “Ask your father to forgive your hatred.”

After an intense inner struggle she confessed her feelings to her father, asking his forgiveness. He broke into tears, asking her to forgive him, also. And father and daughter were reconciled.

The third phase in forgiveness is the restoration of a brotherly harmony.  Forgiveness endeavors to restore an erring person to harmony with the offended one.  Joseph is the quintessential example of this phase of forgiveness. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was brought to Egypt where he ascended to a position of authority next to Pharaoh. When seeing his brothers in Egypt to purchase food during a great famine, Joseph displayed a forgiving spirit.  “Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt, giving them property in the best of the land near the city of Remeses . . . Joseph provided food for his father, his brothers, and all the rest of his father’s family, including the very youngest” (Genesis 47:11-12; Good New Bible; Today’s English Version).

It was Brooker T. Washington, the renowned scientist who said, “I will not permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”

How astute! An unforgiving spirit may or may not hurt the other person, but it is certain to degrade our own souls.  We lived across the road from a neighbor who installed solar panels on his roof to capture the sun’s energy, thus converting it to electricity. He used it to heat his enormous, enclosed swimming pool so his family could swim during winters.

I inquired, “What happens on overcast days? Is no electricity is generated?” 

“No, the panels draw energy from the sun even on those days. I’m the only one who can shut down the panels to not generate energy by closing the shutters over them.”

As I think back on that incident, it occurs to me that, in order to keep our spiritual shutters open to God’s forgiveness of us, we must open our spiritual shutters of forgiveness toward others. Only we can shut down God’s panels of forgiveness to us.

                                                                          ©  Joseph Perrello (Josprel)




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