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Forgiveness

by Phillip North
via Biblical Insights, Vol. 8, No. 8, Aug. 2008.

Much has been preached and written on how mankind, especially Christians, should and must practice forgiveness. No doubt it is a command, not a mere option. Jesus said, "But if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:13,14). Upon completion of the Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant, Christ said, "So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:35). Paul often mentioned the necessity of forgiving (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

Like most things, there is a misuse and an abuse of forgiveness. When one repeatedly wrongs another, either by maliciously committing the same sins from one person to another, or by simply wrongdoing the same individual continually, the appeal is made to what the Bible says about forgiving someone "seventy times seven." That is to say, it must always be done no matter how many times someone is wronged by the same person. While Jesus does tell Peter that one must be forgiven "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22), Luke makes this record of Jesus' instruction -- "Take heed to yourselves; If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him. and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns again to you saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).

This shows that the one committing the wrong needs to have a penitent heart! Every effort should be made not to continue in his sinning. It appears that some tend to "hide behind" this verse of Scripture while continuing wrongdoing. To repent means to "turn away from." It means to make a 180 degree turn, "an about face." Hence, the one seeking forgiveness should be sincere in doing so. God demands genuine repentance. He does not wish for us to "play upon someone's sympathies" and toy with mercy. Paul said, "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner; that you might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (II Corinthians 7:9-10). True repentance must carry with it "godly sorrow," and it must, therefore, be "after a godly manner." Only then can it be said this individual "sorrowed to repentance," and thus, truly repented.

Forgiveness is a "two-way street." Yes, the one who is wronged must forgive. Howbeit, the one who committed the wrongdoing must truly repent! The offender who abuses the "seventy times seven" command by Jesus needs to correct his his heart and realize that Jesus said true repentance must be seen. One must cease wrongdoing. Otherwise, how can one expect God to forgive him of his own sins?

This kind of behavior manifests one to be defiant of the Golden Rule, lacking in self-discipline, and void of true spirituality.