Duty or a way of life? Devotional Commentary for November 22-28
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
And Jesus Continued:
14"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15"But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
After finishing His teaching on prayer, Jesus returns to a very important point in the model prayer and gives more instructions on the subject of forgiveness. The model prayer features three need-based supplications we offer to our Father on our own behalf. We pray for our daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from the evil one. Jesus singles out and revisits forgiveness because forgiveness signifies the quality of our relationship both with God and with men.
Jesus shows us the inseparable correlation between receiving and giving forgiveness, with impressive brevity. If we forgive, then we are forgiven. If not, then we won't be. In other words, we must forgive simply because we are forgiven. We must exercise caution here lest we wrongly think that we can earn forgiveness by forgiving those who offended us. God is not so petulant that He would withhold His forgiveness unless and until we forgive our enemies. The truth is that we cannot open our hands to receive God's gracious pardon while holding our fists tightly clenched against those whom we resent.
The quality and nature of our relationship with others exposes the testimony of our personal relationship with God. If our soul continues to nurse a deep-seated resentment against those whom we hate or despise, it must be due to our inability to respond to God's forgiveness because our heart is suffocated with a festering grudge. That means, we keep God's gracious pardon from entering our soul because we are busy fostering acrimony.
Forgiveness from God is not an empty pardon. It lavishes our parched soul with His Love, Grace, and Mercy to which we must gratefully and obediently respond with acceptance. To be sure, acceptance of God's forgiveness necessarily entails the deliberate rejection of any resentful tendencies enslaving our heart. When accepted, God's forgiveness becomes God's power in our heart driving out every wicked passion from our soul.
But if we persist in nursing our ill-feelings toward others, then our heart is closed to God's forgiveness. In that case, we live as unforgiven wayward children. We welter in a miserable spiritual subsistence. We have not received forgiveness because we have no godly motivation or power to let go.
God's forgiveness is already granted to us. It is not something we earn by performance. It is a gift from our gracious Father to a penitent soul. It is the source of a continuous renewal to our redeemed soul. However, if we favor our natural inclinations over God's forgiveness, then our relationship with our forgiving God would suffer. Simply put, a commitment to keep hating is tantamount to resisting God's gracious pardon. A forgiven soul has a forgiving heart.
Is forgiveness a duty or a way of life? Does Paul envisage forgiveness when he says we are given the ministry of reconciliation? Is reconciliation possible without forgiveness? these are pertinent questions relevant to Christian living and relationships.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul affirms that God reconciled us to Himself through His Son after making us new in Jesus Christ through His gracious pardon. God forgave us in Jesus Christ and made us new before commissioning us to the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, forgiveness is indeed a way of life for those who have been made new in Christ.
Forgiveness is often viewed only as a commendable behavior of an even-tempered person, tolerating wrongdoings perpetrated by both willful and negligent offenders. Here, forgiveness is incorrectly viewed merely as a kind and gracious gesture of a patient and tolerant individual. Viewed this way, forgiveness turns out to be a self-promoting air of condescension. Such an outlook selfishly places the "benevolent forgiver” in a loftier moral position than the offender, contrary to the truth that we are all sinners saved by Grace. Is that what God did when He forgave us in Jesus Christ? No! By no means whatsoever.
Obviously, 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. Simply put, if we received forgiveness when we did not deserve it, then we should be able to give what we have received as offenders, ourselves. We should treat others as God treated us. This way, we become God's emissaries of reconciliation and healing.
Are we not called peacemakers, after all? How can we make peace if we don't forgive? How can we live as forgiven if we don't exercise the forgiveness we have received? How can we stand in the gap as witnesses of Grace and Redemption if we don't forgive? We forgive because we are forgiven. Forgiveness is a way of life. A forgiven soul pleases God with a forgiving heart. To forgive is to honor God. To forgive is to glorify God. To forgive is to extend God's Grace.