Friday, July 15, 2011

The Hardest Bridge to Cross

     At our wonderful family get togethers when all the grandsons are happily playing, it seems that nothing in the world could be better.  However, tranquility doesn't last when "Mr. Me, My, Mine" shows up to play too.  During our recent vacation, we heard the word "mine" and "my" quite often.  When it occurred, it would not be long till someone would burst into tears requiring a parent to step in and bring resolution.  The outcome was a blessing because the boys would apologize and follow up with a hug for the wronged cousin.  How much clearer can a Bible lesson be than to observe this taking place before us.
     Jesus had some important words for us concerning forgiveness.  In Matthew 18, Peter asked the Lord about this critical concern.  "Peter came up and said to Him, 'Lord how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?'  Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven'" (Matt. 18:21-22).  I can only imagine that Peter thought he was being generous when he suggested seven times but the Lord requires more of us as believers.  The passage then goes on in the telling of a parable of the king and his servant to illustrate the point that Jesus was trying to make.
     A certain king had a servant who had not paid a large debt to him.  Since the man could not pay, the king was planning to sell this man, his wife and children and all he possessed in order to recoup the lost money.  However, the servant begged the king to be patient with him and he would repay everything.  This caused the king to have pity on his servant and so, in a surprise move, he released his servant and forgave the debt.  Instead of rejoicing in this wonderful gift of mercy, the ungrateful servant went out and found another servant who owed him money.  It was a small amount in comparison.  Nevertheless the ungrateful servant began to choke the man until he pleaded with him to have mercy.  The ungrateful servant sent his fellow servant to prison until he could repay.  As word came back to the king about this incident, he called the ungrateful servant before him.  The king reminded him that he had forgiven him much because he had pity for him as he pleaded for mercy.  Yet, this ungrateful servant threw a fellow servant into prison because he could not repay.  Therefore the king ordered this man to prison until he could pay all his debt.  Jesus ended the parable by saying:  "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Matt. 18:35).
     Christians are called to be a people of forgiveness.  We know this not only from this teaching of our Lord but even within "The Lord's Prayer" which we often recite during our worship services.  In teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus included the phrase, "And forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us)."  
     When we ask God to forgive us, we are called upon to forgive our brothers just as the parable described.  However, there is something important to take note of in the passages mentioned before.  The servant who owed a lot of money begged the king to spare him and allow him to repay.  He was sorry he sinned against his master, and the king forgave his debt.  According to Dr. R.C. Sproul in his podcast concerning the Lord's Prayer, he indicated that unless someone repents we cannot give forgiveness.  Certainly, we can pray for the person and the Lord is pleased for us to pray for our enemies and all who despitefully use us.  We are to pray for their health and well being.  Yet, we are only called to forgive those who truly repent for an offense done against us.  This is why Jesus made the statement to Peter about forgiving seven times seventy.  If a brother/sister wrongs us but repents, we must forgive them.
     What happens if we cannot forgive a person who repents?  Just like the ungrateful servant in the parable, we will be thrown into a prison of our own making.  Our thoughts become consumed with a desire to punish the person who offended us.  We spend our days dwelling on the hurt until it spreads like a sore into our very soul.  While we are eaten up with anger, the person who offended us and asked our forgiveness will go on with their life relieved of their guilt  while we are stuck in pain.  We are the ones who have the guilt of unforgiveness before the Lord.
     No one says forgiving another person whether family member or business associate is easy.  It requires the supernatural strength of God to overcome the lure of the old flesh.  If only we had hearts like little children that easily could wrap our arms around another and say we are sorry, our world would be a better place.  Jesus is calling us to cross the bridge of forgiveness to those who truly repent....even seven times seventy.  The next time we pray the Lord's Prayer or prepare our hearts for communion we need to stop and consider if there is any unforgiveness in our hearts before the Lord.  The Lord will not hold us guiltless if there is since He has forgiven us much.   In this and all else He commands, may we be found faithful until He returns.  Selah!

1 comment:

Penned Pebbles said...

Forgiveness, oh my, how hard it is sometimes. Yet, I look at how much I have been forgiven and know that, with God's help, I can forgive much too.