“…We also forgive…” When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I stop right there and examine my heart. Is there anyone I have not forgiven? Remember, forgiveness is not just a minor point. It’s one of the truths taught by our Lord in the Bible’s pattern prayer, the “Our Father,” the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said, “This is how you should pray … forgive us our sins, for
Forgive whom? — “Everyone who sins against us.” Ask yourself: Are you an unforgiving person? Then watch out! Jesus said you run the risk of being unforgiven by God! I once had a friend who used to say, “We don’t get mad; we just get even.” Just imagine the self-destructive bitterness in the souls of people with that attitude, who carry ongoing, unforgiving resentment in their hearts.
Forgiveness is not earned by the offending person. It’s a matter of mercy and grace. Think about that. God pardons sin and forgives us graciously, prompted by His “delight to show mercy.” A proper biblical understanding of forgiveness must begin with God Himself. He forgives the guilty because it is a delightful thing to Him to show mercy — entirely undeserved mercy. When we were lost in our sinful lives, God reached out to us and offered grace and salvation to those who would come to Him, through Jesus, in faith and repentance. Because we deserved it? No. Because we were innocent? No. In fact we were absolutely guilty.
Those who need your forgiveness may have said or done horrible things against you, things that seem nearly impossible for you to get over. Look to God’s example when He forgave you of so many terrible offenses against Him. Remember that God chose to “not stay angry forever but delight[ed] to show mercy.” Remember that Jesus linked our being forgiven by God to whether or not we are willing to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Perhaps you’re thinking right now: yes, but God expects us to repent of our sins, then He’ll forgive. This is true. But there is another aspect of forgiveness that we can practice that God has already done in our lives. And that is the above-quoted “not staying angry but delighting to show mercy” to the offender. Think about your life. Before you came to the Lord in repentance and faith (Acts 20:21), did you deserve mercy? Of course not. We sinners deserved judgment. But God chose to move past His justifiable anger over our sins. Instead He offered mercy in the person of His Son Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins, so that we could come to Him through Jesus to receive forgiveness. And remember when God and Jesus did this—“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So we don’t have to wait for the one who has offended us to come and ask for forgiveness. Instead, we can unilaterally, of our own volition, take the initiative and forgive. Look at this next verse:
This is a life-changing piece of wisdom from God — It is to your
In my 77 years on this earth, I’ve seen this divine principle work dramatically in marriages. Once I was about to officiate at a wedding and was waiting off to the side with the bridegroom and two groomsmen. One of the young men asked me, “Jim, in one word, what’s the secret to a happy marriage?” Without any hesitation I gave my one-word answer: “Forgiveness.”
My pastor many years ago made a comment about this that I’ll never forget. He said that he and his wife “carried around the house an attitude of readiness to forgive.” And they lived that out, sharing many decades of a very happy marriage on this earth before they went on to the Lord in heaven. To the husbands and wives reading this, I encourage you, make a personal decision right now that you will readily overlook and forgive your spouse’s unkind word or hurtful action. Don’t even bring it up, but take it quietly to the Lord and release it to Him. That works. Any hurt in your heart softens and slips away, and your marriage goes forward in victory. You receive healing within from the Lord because, like Him, you have delighted to show mercy.
This deliberate overlooking of offenses is a key to healing of broken relationships — with a spouse, with friends, in-laws, coworkers, with anyone! Please hear me now: this readiness to forgive quietly in your heart does not make you a wimp. It makes you someone God can bless, because He will readily forgive your sins as you forgive those of others, as Jesus made very clear in the Lord’s Prayer.
In Sum: Jesus Christ taught us to be forgivers, remembering how God has forgiven us. In choosing to forgive, we are following the perfect example of God, who delights to show mercy. The Scripture (Proverbs 19:11) tells us how God says it is to our glory when we choose to overlook offenses. And that, I believe strongly, is a major key to happy marriages and other relationships — not defending your “rights,” but choosing to overlook and forgive.
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©2020, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.