Originally scheduled for October 15
Forgiveness. It is a common theme in the Bible,
but much less a common theme in our lives. It might profit us to
look at forgiveness before we partake of its supreme example.
We don’t normally think of forgiveness as
having a certain power to it. It generally strikes our mind as
something “nice to do”; but it is much more than that.
When we grant forgiveness, we are
following Christ’s command. Experienced Christians know that the
power of the Christian life is unleashed by obedience. Do it God’s
way the first time — it works.
More than that, by our forgiving
others Christ has guaranteed us that he will forgive us. So we
unleashed the forgiveness of God by forgiving others.
Personally, forgiveness is beneficial
for us. Done correctly, it relieves us of the bitterness, anger and
strife of a long-term feud.
Even more when Christ forgives us, we find that
he tells us our sins are swept away; he remembers them no more. It
gives us a fresh chance — and most of us need that fairly
frequently. Greatest of all, his forgiveness is eternal, and thus
has eternal consequences, good or bad. The power of forgiveness is
there; we just have to release it. We release it by accepting it in
our own lives (and, I hope, thanking God for it at the time) while
we forgive others as well.
There is one consistent theme to forgiveness:
the one who wants reconciliation is the one who pays for it. If you
wish to forgive, you are the reconciler. And you’re going to pay for
it. For when you forgive, you in effect bear the consequences of the
sin of someone else. If they have offended you, you forgive but the
consequences of that sin, and its impact on you, are still with you.
The great example of the price of forgiveness
is Christ on the cross. For the sins of mankind he gave up his life
— and not at all pleasantly. The nails, the blood, the wounds and
the agony are the price of your forgiveness. Placed in perspective,
you forgiving someone else will never rise to the price of Christ
forgiving all of us.
Forgiveness is not just the matter of letting
bygones be bygones. There is an effect on the one forgiven which can
be quite striking. Christ tells us that he who is forgiven much,
loves much. When the forgiveness is very expensive, or the sins very
great, the love which results from reconciliation is also very
great. Sometimes we are reluctant to forgive because of the
greatness of the offense. God’s promise to forgive us is contingent
upon our willingness to forgive others. If you wish to receive his
mercy, you must imitate his mercy. But unlike our forgiveness, God’s
forgiveness is eternal. We have no power over anything but the time
we have; he has power over all time.
Communion is first and foremost a reminder of the price that was
paid for our forgiveness. This was not an example of weakness being
forced to forgive. Indeed, the power of God is shown to be very
great by his raising Christ from the dead. We can receive that power
of forgiveness by accepting the promise of God; the promise of which
communion is a reminder every time we take it.