10 July 2010

Love Requires Forgiveness

"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven . . .'" --Mat 18:21-22 (NKJV)

One of the pillars of the ministry of Jesus was forgiveness. It was also one of the greatest sources of confusion and derision from those who hated Jesus. The law prior to the birth, life and eventual death/resurrection of Christ required physical sacrifice as atonement prior to forgiveness. Custom also did not require men to forgive their brethren more than a few times before writing them off as unrepentant.

Praise God for Christ. Truly.

The ministry of Jesus revealed God's true desire: that men (and women) be forgiven entirely and without condition whenever they performed a work contrary to the will of God. The death of Jesus -- His acceptance of our punishment -- facilitates this kind of forgiveness to manifest itself, but as ministers of Christ in the present, we must ACT on this divine facilitation.

[Jesus said] "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." --Mat 6:14-15 (NKJV)

There are no conditions here. I don't get to choose when to forgive, who to forgive, or what to forgive them for. If I choose not to forgive in any situation, then I have separated myself from the divine forgiveness of God in my own life. This is a challenging and perhaps the most important part of Godly love: forgive your neighbor.

Forgive your enemy. Forgive yourself.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean ignoring human nature, though, either. As Christians we are continually counseled to flee from temptation, including temptation in the form of our brethren or non-Christians.

". . . So you shall put away the evil from your midst." --Deu 13:5 (NKJV)
"But those who are outside [the church] God judges. Therefore, 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'" --1 Cor 5:13 (NKJV)

God recognizes that we are weak in the flesh, but WE must recognize that we are strong in spirit, for the Spirit that guides us is the Holy Ghost, who has cast out the enemy and desires most to guide us in all things. We MUST forgive if we intend to love one another, but we do not have to subject ourselves to dangerous and/or damaging relationships.

[Jesus said] "'Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.'" --John 7:24 (NKJV)

Righteous judgment relies on the Word of God to recognize that which is evil: not of God. In every endeavor to forgive, we should also endeavor to be honest with s/he who has transgressed against us. What they have done has caused injury and was wrong. We should also be able to support ourselves with scripture, even if we aren't going to thump each other over the head with a Bible.

If I cannot back myself up with the Word of God, then I am in trouble... In fact, I am in danger of having brought upon myself a need for forgiveness. If I cannot back myself up because I am not familiar enough with the Word to know one way or the other, then I need to consult the Truth before I chastise my brother or sister in Christ, or my friends who do not yet know Christ.

I cannot love if I cannot forgive. This is, for me, one of the great divine mysteries of God: He is love because He forgives.

¡Gloria a Dios!

No comments: