By Practical Christianity Foundation, (PCF)
Some of our recent blogs addressed a few topics, which are commonly viewed as difficult subjects in our understanding of what it means to live as a Christian. These included: Disappointment/expectations, fear, living as a Christian,and submission to God. It is our hope and prayer that, reading the articles has encouraged you to think about the topics with a newer, more mature understanding. The difficulty with such topics is more of a perceived challenge in perspective than an actual dilemma with issues of Christian living. It is no different for the subject of this week's blog: Forgiveness: Duty? Or, A Way of Life?
Reviewing certain Scripture verses without carefully observing the context in which the statements are made will always give us some superficial ideas conveyed by the simple meanings of words used in a sentence. So, when we read verses, which seem to require us to "forgive", we feel that this comes to us as a command to "forgive". Not bad! Indeed, we are admonished to "forgive". But do we just "forgive" out of obedience to forgive and then move on to the next event which requires us to forgive? Or, is there something more fundamental to "forgiveness"? we say YES
Are we scripturally sound when we take such admonitions merely as commands, specifying our duties, which we feel we are obligated to perform? We say emphatically, “No!” Such an unbiblical perspective will certainly instill into our minds the feeling that Christian living is simply a life of rigorous subjection, servitude, or obedience defined by rules of do's and don'ts. Oh, how such falsehoods grieve God our Father, Who graciously and mercifully redeemed us for Himself, Jesus Christ His Son Who suffered God's just judgment that we deserved and became the way of our salvation, and the Holy Spirit Who came into our depraved hearts and took up residence as the guarantee of God's salvation, having regenerated us into the new life in Christ!
The problem with such a perspective is that, it distorts our understanding, and misleads us into thinking that God's living Word is a lifeless list of rules and regulations. Instead of seeing forgiveness as a joyful, God-given experience, we see it as a hollow duty that is devoid of meaning and significance. We think that it is something that a Christian must do just because the Bible says so! So, what's up with forgiveness?
Forgiveness is often viewed only as a commendable behavior of an even-tempered person, tolerating wrongdoings perpetrated by both willful and negligent offenders. So, forgiveness is incorrectly viewed as just a kind and gracious gesture of a wronged person toward an offender. Viewed this way, forgiveness turns out to be a self-promoting air of condescension. This selfishly places the benevolent “forgiver” in a loftier moral position than the offender. Is that what God did when He forgave us in Jesus Christ? No! By no means whatsoever!
God forgave us while we were yet sinners, deserving His just judgment. God did not need to give us His forgiveness to raise the quality of His character. He is perfect and absolute in all of His attributes. He is sovereign and just. He so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in the Son will receive His gracious and merciful forgiveness. God showered His forgiveness upon undeserving sinners to show the glory and the riches of His grace and mercy.
We cannot forgive as God forgives because forgiveness does not originate with us. It originates with God! However, we are admonished to be the conduits of God's forgiveness toward those who offend us. Simply put, if we received forgiveness when we did not deserve to get it, then we should remember our Lord Who forgave us and then pass His forgiveness to those who have offended us. This way, we become God's emissaries of reconciliation and healing. Are we not called peacemakers,after all? So, we forgive because we are forgiven, not because of some falsely perceived duty. Coming back to where we started, forgiveness is not a duty we must perform. Instead, it is a ministry of reconciliation and healing we are privileged to share. It is a way of life we are called and enabled to live! Are you forgiven? If yes, then forgive because your offense against God is fully paid!
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