Friday, January 22, 2016

A Second Reason to Forgive

What should motivate a Christian to forgive other Christians who have sinned against them? The most common answer is that we forgive because God Himself has forgiven us. That's totally biblical, as Matthew 18:32-33 reminds us.

But there's another motivation that we seldomly think about, and it has to do with the offending party's relationship with God.

A Not-So-Unfamiliar Scenario

Ted, Kirby, and Josh were good friends, magkabarkada. But Josh's new girlfriend disliked Ted (for no good reason), and Josh had distanced himself from his long-time buddy. Naturally, Ted and Kirby were hurt. One night, the two were talking, when Kirby begun to vent his anger against Josh. Ted listened for a while, and then he said, "I was also offended by what Josh did. But I don't want to be bitter toward him anymore, and I've asked God for the grace to forgive him. You should, too."

Kirby became silent (either from embarrassment, or confusion, or both). Finally, he said, "Well, if you're forgiving him, then I don't have any reason not to, I guess."

The story of Ted, Kirby, and Josh reminds us of two important things. First, sin always hurts others, often in ways we don't anticipate. Sin works more like a grenade than a sniper rifle. Everyone in the vicinity is affected. Second, when the person most offended forgives the offender, it encourages the lesser-offended party to forgive, too. Conversely, it exposes the ugliness of any unwillingness to forgive.

Who's The Most Offended Party?

When a brother/sister offends us, we often think we're the most offended party. And humanly speaking, that may be. But we also need to remember that sin is, first and foremost, against God. That means



We see this principle at work (albeit from the opposite side of the table) when David repented of his sins against Uriah's family. Remember what happened? He committed adultery with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, and then plotted his death through a series of "unfortunate" events. For a long time afterwards, David refused to face what he did. But finally, by the grace of God, he did repent. The 51st Psalm is a record of how he realized the ugliness of his sin, humbled himself, and sought forgiveness from the Lord.

There's a line there that would strike many observant readers as strange, even offensive. It's when David says to the Lord,  "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4).

That's a controversial statement that I won't discuss now. But it clearly shows the truth mentioned earlier.

The Second Motivation

This points us to a second motivation to forgive other believers who have sinned against us. It says, "When [insert name] did _____, God was the most offended party. But God has already forgiven that person. In fact, Jesus Christ died so that [name] could be forgiven. So what right do I have to hold on to my anger and hurt feelings?"

That's it. Not complicated, is it? And I hope it helps us all to be more forgiving towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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