To err is human, to forgive is divine ...
"... You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19) and "... I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:34) Covered by the blood of our Holy God when we cry out to Him for help, He will forgive us and give us the power to forgive others ONLY if we TRUST HIM. Fear not, and always remember that our God has a future for those who are His. Have you said, "I forgive.", but you don't trust God enough to cast the sin into the sea to be remembered no more?
Trust Him and be a light to the world that YOUR GOD is a merciful and compassionate God who forgives sinners and commands us to be the same.
E-mail James at " JRFiske@Liberty.edu " if you have any questions about receiving the forgiveness that only God can give to us and through us.
FORGIVE AS YOU HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN (Colossians 3:13)
THEO 530SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY II
Thesis Statement: Forgiveness is more than just saying and believing you forgive, it must involve the acts of forgetting and reconciliation.
INTRODUCTION ……………………………..………………………………… 3
PART I. What is Forgiveness?
Chapter 1. The World Says ……………………………………..………………... 3
Chapter 2. Biblical Examples …………………………………………………….. 5
Chapter 3. The Examples of our Lord……………………………………………... 7
Chapter 4. Is Forgiving Forgetting?………………………………….………….... 8
PART II. Forgiveness yields Reconciliation.
Chapter 5. It takes time………..…………………………………..…..………….. 10
Chapter 6. The Christian Mission with love……………………………………… 11
Chapter 7. The joy………………………………………………………………... 13
CONCLUSION …………………………………………………………………. 14
BIBLIOGRAPHY ………………………………………………………………. 15
There is not a person who has ever lived who has not been in need of compassion, who has never sinned, who has never walked through life with perfect love, except One and He was our Lord Jesus. When we look to see what forgiveness is all about we must look to the One who needs no forgiveness, but gives it eternally to all who ask of Him. The world views forgiveness in a cloud full of pride, lies, deception, hate, anger and bitterness that never ends in this life. Our Lord clears the clouds away as we focus on the light of His love that shines brighter than the sun. When we think of what forgiveness is we need not look at the imperfection of our feelings, but at the perfection of Christ’s Love and His commands. Forgiveness is more than just saying and believing you forgive, it must involve the acts of forgetting and reconciliation.
PART I. What is forgiveness?Chapter 1. The World SaysWe live in a time where people believe that you can say, “I forgive you”, but it has no substance. “The word ‘forgiveness’ is perceived very differently by people.” Webster’s Dictionary describes forgiveness as, “To excuse a wrong, pardon, remit, or cancel.” We receive counsel that tells us you can forgive without showing any outward sign of forgetting or reconciling. “Forgiveness is best defined as attitudinal, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral. Undoubtedly, in its fullest form, forgiveness involves a complex mix of these dimensions. How one views this issue affects one’s belief about whether communication with the offender is necessary… Clinical and Counseling Psychology… often put an emphasis on the feelings.” Our feelings are what is important. It is all about how we feel as the victim, and it is self-centered. The offender never need see or hear from us again. It is not expected that any level of trust be offered, because forgiveness is seen as an inward response to give our minds an out to the pain. Psychologically we convince ourselves that we are a good person, and it is not our responsibility to reach out with love, we have been wronged and it is ok to never speak or have contact with the offender again. “If forgiveness is to be given without admission of guilt or repentance, it asks the survivor to display a truly superhuman capacity for understanding. Forgiveness can then become problematic… the process acts to disempower the survivor… disallowing the survivor’s enduring anger and determination not to forgive. Thus the decision to forgive can only be made by the survivors themselves.”This type of response and belief in forgiveness from the world raises the question: What difference does faith make? Faith sheds light on the path of God’s love instead of the path of evil where, “There remains no obligation to forgive and an unforgiven wrongdoer cannot insist that the victim of the wrong be morally virtuous… Christians… love all people, and their forgiveness is to extend to all people.” There is a great spiritual war in the world, “Jesus in His ministry lived with the constant awareness of the battle taking place between two ‘powers’, the power of God’s Spirit that was the power of love and the powers of ‘this world’… evil can only be healed by the insertion of love.” Christians look at the worldly counsel of forgiving and should ask themselves if this is really the forgiveness of God, because if God forgave us in this manner what state of relationship would we be in with Him? Worldly counsel tells us, “Be cautious above all about the word itself. Forgiveness may carry too much conflicting emotional baggage, ‘Accepting’, ‘becoming reconciled’, ‘letting go’, and ‘closure’ may be more appropriate words.” The Holy Bible tells us, “In the last days… men will be lovers of themselves… proud... unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving…” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) We are living in the last times, and if we do not understand what true forgiveness is we have not understood one of the most fundamental acts of lifestyle that God demands of each soul of His Creation.
Chapter 2. Biblical Examples
When we think of the Bible we think of perfection, and the Bible is perfect, but other than our Lord the men within it are not. We must keep in mind that at times we all need forgiveness because, “We can’t model perfection because we’re not perfect; we can only model growth. The people around us need to know that we are real people who are in the process of becoming like Christ.” In the beginning forgiveness is seen in the life of Cain and Abel. God would have been completely justified in killing Cain for the murder of his brother, but the Lord had mercy on Cain. His life was spared and even protected by the Hand of God (Genesis 4:15). King David committed the sin of murder and adultery with Bathsheba, but the Lord called him a man after His own heart. When David was confronted with his sin by Nathan (2 Samuel 12), David as King of Israel could have had Nathan killed for his truthful remarks, but instead he humbly and remorsefully fell to the ground and begged God for mercy and forgiveness. Samson did not heed wise counsel, failed to follow the advice of his parents and faith, but in the end He still found grace. When He prayed, “Lord God, remember me I pray! Strengthen me…” (Judges 16:28), his prayer was heard, forgiveness was found and his strength returned so he could give glory to God. Abraham once lied about his wife Sarah saying she was his sister (Genesis 20:2), but mercy and forgiveness were found when he spoke the truth. When Joseph spent many years in prison he was reconciled with his brothers when he forgave them for their abuse, lying, and selling him into slavery, because he believed, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). The Lord blesses the merciful and, “When Christian leaders forgive others, people come to understand that God is a God who forgives.” When Jonah tried to run from obeying God there were consequences of whale sized proportions, but God’s mercy and forgiveness of the Ninevites were all within His merciful plan of reconciliation.
In the New Testament we read about the apostle Paul, who was originally called, “Saul of Tarsus” (Acts 9:11) renowned for his acts of persecuting, arresting, and consenting to the deaths of Christians. He was a leader against the cause of Christ with a deceived mind of thinking he was doing service for God. “If God is a just Judge, why does God not give all people exactly what their wrongdoing merits, and is it not unjust to spare some but not all?... Christ has taken the place of sinners and borne their punishment.” The people of Paul’s time through great hesitation took him, trusted God and forgave him. He went on to be used of God as one of the greatest missionaries of all time! He was dearly loved with acts of generosity and kindness by those who once feared him. The wisdom of God should guide us in our understanding as we hear, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9).
Chapter 3. The Examples of our Lord
The Lord gave clear instruction in the Garden of Eden to not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, but we could not obey. Our initial sin was of such magnitude that God said all men must die (Genesis 2:17). This was the penalty of our sin, but how does this relate to forgiveness? The first sign of forgiveness is compassion. “Pride… stops all curious inquiries into those things which are unsearchable: and principally as it entitles to the promise, God will instruct and give grace to the humble… greater progress is made… by humble prayer than by the most anxious study. As at court, an hour of favor is worth a year’s attendance. Man cannot acquire so much as God can give.” The Lord showed His great mercy by dealing with the sin of Adam and Eve with not just punishment, but He also provided a means of reconciliation and relationship. His wrath was harsh, but His love is greater. Even the children of Israel who wandered about searching after other gods were called by God to repent and return to Him, “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, may he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me’, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 3:1) The Lord could have at that time ended His relationship with Israel, but he wanted reconciliation. The Lord finally turned to both Jews and Gentiles, “Jesus believed the eschatological shape of Israel had already been determined through the ministry of John the Baptist. Such a belief implies God had… restored Israel.”
Although we will experience the pain of earthly death, He takes the eternal consequences of separation away if we are willing to turn to Him. “Even in the face of the pain and shortness of life, who knows the completeness of God’s anger?” God’s punishment is great, but so is His mercy – remember Jonah? He was a man who ran from God, but God did not let Him go. He followed him to the depths of the sea, bringing him to repentance. He gives life and life abundantly to His children who turn to Him. The Lord thinks so much of forgiveness that He gave His life. It was not sufficient for Him to stay in Heaven and think, “I forgive My people”, He knew it would involve a great work. The thought of the price He would pay brought Tears of Blood from His Face (Luke 22:4). He remained faithful to the prophecies of His Word and forgave us. He suffered and died to reconcile all those who would repent and desire a relationship with Him. This is the ultimate price of forgiveness and the forgiveness Jesus offers is one that He gives not just in atonement, but as the greatest example of what He desires from us. This is not an option; it is His command, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
Chapter 4. Is Forgiving Forgetting?
One of the challenges of forgiving is forgetting. “But for the grace of God… The injured party may be unable to let go… The willingness of the injured party to attempt to forgive hinges part on the ability of the offender to take the appropriate steps. And the ability of the offender to release… from guilt depends in part on the victim’s ability to take the appropriate steps.” The Lord says, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) He actively forgets our sin and moves it out into eternity, but how could we possibly do that to those who have done us wrong? “Some… will not forgive, because they fear becoming vulnerable again, because they enjoy using their passive-aggressive anger to cling to the victim role to control and distance… because they find pleasure in rebelling.” Our minds do not let us remove the pain. Our minds constantly bring up the images that hurt us and cause the fear and lack of trust to rule our lives. We become victims over and over again, because instead of giving our burdens to the Lord and looking to Him we cling to the sin as if it is now a part of us. We must remember, “If I seek some experience which does not have a sound Biblical foundation, I am opening my life to some deceiving spirit to come as an Angel of light.” It is not possible for humans to have the strength to forget sin, but if we look to the Lord and His advice what do we hear? His voice tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29, 30), and what He said to Paul is still applicable for us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) We may never totally forget, but our instruction on a daily basis is to give it to the Lord. He will carry the burden, and help us deal with the pain. He asks us to trust Him, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD… Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.” (Proverbs 3:5-7, 27)
We may never be the same when sinned upon. It is so easy to be reminded of the wrong by constant reminders, but when this happens we must look to the Lord for He tells us to cast all our burdens on Him, because, “He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Casting our burdens is the act of prayer. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer. The Bible tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) So the real question is how do we become righteous? This is done by trusting God’s Word and believing that He is a merciful and forgiving God by faith. Faith makes all the difference! When He forgives He casts all our sins, “Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) to be remembered no more. This is the type of example He gives us, He wants us to follow Him and trust Him. Through His power, working through us this can be accomplished. We reach the place where we have, “One controlling desire and purpose… to do the things that please Him, then I may ask for what I will, and it shall be done.”
PART II. Forgiveness yields ReconciliationChapter 5. It takes time
When forgiveness is given what follows? Our Lord tells us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) If we have all fallen short then how are we lifted up? How do we reconcile back to God if we do not measure up? Our Lord Jesus bridges the gap. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) The price that was paid for this reconciliation was great so why does it take us time to forgive when we are wronged? “Gestures of love and overtures of reconciliation often have dramatic healing effects… Forgiveness is a multistage process influenced by many factors that can extend over a long period of time.” The Lord describes us as sheep. We do not always follow the shepherd immediately. “Only after you are fully aware of how you were wronged, of how the wound cuts deep, and of the poisonous embrace of your anger, are you ready to consider an alternative way of dealing with it… You realize there is a better way, one that will help heal your own psychic pain, but also move you away from a preoccupation with your own pain into the realm of the Spiritual and moral claims of a Gospel of love and compassion.” It takes time for us to forgive, because we need to have a period of healing.
Sometimes fear overcomes our faith and, “One aspect of fear’s power is that the imagined evil is often worse than the eventuality.” We believe lies in our minds that the sin will happen again or worse, but where is our faith? If we trust God then we place our lives in His Hands and obey Him, no matter what the cost. When we are physically wounded it takes time for a scratch to heal, even longer for broken bones, but when we are deeply sinned upon it takes time for the Lord to heal us. Sometimes the Lord can move quickly, but more often the healing is slow. The healing however must occur if we are His children, because we have His Spirit within, “as a helper” (John 14:26). His Spirit living within us is God within us telling us, that we are not only made in His image, but we are commanded to love as He has loved. The Holy Word tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life…” (John 15:13) and this is what Jesus did to forgive us of our sins.
Chapter 6. The Christian Mission with Love
The acts of forgiveness and reconciliation are not an option, it is our Mission with love. “Reconciliation is a crucial New Testament term… a major theme in the Bible, the fundamental human predicament is alienation…” The Lord tells us, “God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) He has reconciled us to Himself, so we now have an example to show His forgiveness and love to others. “The primacy of love in the Christian Scriptures is undeniable. Beginning with the teaching and ministry of Jesus Himself, the law of loving concern for others dominates… authentic human love at the very center of faith and discipleship.” There is no limit to the amount of forgiveness we should give. “For some people the offer of gentle forgiveness is nothing more than a license to go forth and continue acting in the same way. But, for most of us, the embrace of the person we have wronged is enough to fill us with gratitude and a commitment to do better in the future.” When asked how many times we should forgive the Lord said, “Seventy times seven” (Luke 18:22) meaning not 490 times, but infinitely many times without end. We should continually love and forgive over and over again, because this is the love of God. “Love… endorsed by Jesus as the correct answer to the question, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Thus a central concern for the Christian with respect to punishment must be not simply what will happen to the body in this life, but what will happen to the soul eternally…” If we cannot forgive others, we should not expect God to forgive us. His love for us has no end, and likewise we should daily love and forgive others.
Chapter 7. The Joy
There is great joy in reconciliation. When the father who lost his son was reconciled back to him he threw a great party saying, “My son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24). The joy in heaven expressed by the heavenly angels when a sinner repents and God reconciles Himself to them. (Luke 15:10) When you are forgiven and given grace undeserved, reconciled and restored as if no sin had occurred there is great joy. “If you think only of yourself, only of your own happiness, the result is actually less happiness. You get more anxiety, more fear.” Love can break the hardest heart, because you are giving when nothing is able to be given back. When we think of the Lord it should help us know what we should do, “He put his anger aside… work together… work for peaceful change. He told them to look to the future, not the past. He told them to forgive.” Reconciliation is the purest form of forgiveness. When we are reconciled to God He removes all remembrances of sin as though it never happened. One day in heaven all the tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4), because that is His will. He wills forgiveness. He wills compassion. He wills joy and peace. This joy will only be received by those who trust in Him as Lord and Savior. A gift given by God through faith, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) This gift is given to all, but only those who receive it will find His forgiveness, reconciliation, and joy everlasting.
The greatest act any person can give is love. We learn from God that love keeps no record of wrong as He spoke of a woman who washed His feet with her tears saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47) When we forgive others not only are we demonstrating the love of God, be we are experiencing the love of God through us. When our actions demonstrate the fundamental principles of the Gospel we are fulfilling the will of God. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces that makes the impossible possible. It takes what is wrong and casts it away. It gives us hope. The Christian is not given the option to forgive, but it is a command from God with love. We are not to forgive as the world views, because the world has a distorted picture of what forgiveness involves. Our Lord Jesus by dying on the cross and humbling Himself as a human being demonstrated the perfection of what forgiveness is all about. Forgiveness involves action; it casts away pride and looks out for the interests of others. Forgiveness moves with compassion and desires a restored relationship. “When the offender has repented, the victim should forgive him, and let him know… Forgiveness in response to repentance encourages people to change for the better and brings harmony and reconciliation… it can keep families intact.” It is only through prayer and reflecting on the awesome love of God for us that we can forgive as God intends. We have no excuses and we should not lay any blame on anyone other than ourselves. When we forgive we express the substance of our faith that brings peace, joy and hope to the world. When we forgive we are personally experiencing a love within that draws us close to the heart of God.
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