Forgiveness: It’s Not Optional

I was at work today dealing with a customer who got irate with me at one point. It’s understandable. At work, I’m a shy recluse and most of my communication is done through non-verbal means. When I finally explained it though, she was immediately apologetic and said that here she was being rude to me and I was looking out for her and trying to help her and was begging my forgiveness.

Frankly, it didn’t bother me, but I saw something going on there and thought that the experience was divine. Indeed, forgiveness must always be divine. There is something in forgiveness in that you say that you will overlook what the other person did to you and treat them practically as if it didn’t happen. Now in some cases, I don’t think doing the latter is necessarily proper and in some, it’s not biblical. We’ll get to those.

In Matthew 6:14-15, we read that if we forgive our fellow man his sins, our heavenly Father will forgive us ours. If we don’t, he won’t. Now I don’t think this is taken to mean that you must forgive to earn your salvation. I believe it’s a statement speaking about the nature of those who have salvation. They will forgive their fellow man.

For Christians though, we do not have an option of if we will forgive or not. We simply forgive. It does not mean we always like it. It does not mean it is always easy. I have to do things every day that are Christian duty that I don’t necessarily like and don’t necessarily enjoy. The point is that we are commanded to do something and our feelings are irrelevent to if it should be done or not.

Now there are some things though that I do think it’s good to have caution for. If someone harms your children for instance and you forgive them, it doesn’t mean that when you go out to dinner with your spouse, you call them up and let them be a babysitter. Forgiveness simply means that you will not make them pay for the sin they committed against you.

It also does not mean there are no consequences. In the Heavenly court, you are redeemed and your sins are no longer counted against you, but that does not mean there are no consequences in the earthly realm. While king David repented, his son still died. While a criminal today can repent of his crime, it does not mean he gets to avoid jail.

However, it is still not optional, and that is the main point. We have been forgiven a great deal and the good news for us is that it’s freely given. How often do we stop and think about this forgiveness? Some readers might know that I have described sin before as divine treason. That’s quite a serious charge and God simply looks at that charge and lets us off the eternal hook.

Consider this: Let us suppose that God created us and we failed and he let us go our own way then and did not send a redeemer. Could anyone fault him for doing so? Could anyone say “You owed us forgiveness! You owed us a way!”? Upon what basis. God does not even owe you this very breath that you have. 

Yet while he was under no burden to do something for you, he did it anyway. He sent his Son to grant you forgiveness of the divine treason that you committed against him and even allowed you to be a part of his kingdom forever. When taken in that way, it is quite clear how one can say that forgiveness is not an option. Are you saying a sin committed against you is worse than one committed against God?

He gave up his greatest for you? What’s he asking you to give up? Your pride at least in this regard. Let that other person go. If you cannot do that, then have you really experienced the forgiveness that he offers?

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