Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 14
We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/
Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 6:1-15; Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 14, Genesis 32-33.
I could not help but be struck by the emphasis Jesus places upon forgiveness in His giving us His pattern for prayer in Matt. 6. You would think the prayer pattern itself would be light and instruction enough – but then He takes out His magnifying glass and enlarges on forgiveness. Why? Because nothing is nearer and dearer to the heart of the Father than forgiveness. Nothing so reveals Him to us as does what He was willing to do, what cost He was willing to incur, what absolutely cosmic measures He would go to – to forgive our sins, and reconcile us to Himself. This is so important for us to grasp that Jesus caps it by saying that no one who fails to manifest the grace of forgiveness, will be saved by grace. Make no mistake, unchanged in this regard means unsaved.
Some squirm at this thought because they falsely believe forgiveness means ignoring past offenses. It means nothing of the kind. Jesus in His resurrected body still bears the scars of His crucifixion. An eternal reminder that forgiveness is immensely costly. You will lose something in forgiving. You will be saying to that person or those persons “you don’t owe me anything anymore.” You willingly take the hit and cancel the debt. Jesus does not go on here to elaborate, but when we do such a thing, we also gain something else of more eternal value; deeper entrance into the very heart of God Himself. It’s worth it.
Others recoil because they imagine this means – for instance – criminal acts against us must be swept under the rug. Not so. I can and MUST forgive sins against myself, but I have no power or authority to forgive crimes against the law. Nor sins against others. That is a separate jurisdiction. And in fact, in order to love my neighbor as myself, I may need to see to it someone I forgive for myself must still be brought to justice under the law in order to protect others. Love for my neighbor and not just the offender requires it.
Nor does forgiveness mean the hurt of the offense just goes away. We are called to forgive in the very midst of pain, it does not mitigate the pain any more than Jesus suffered less on the Cross when saying “Father, forgive them.”
And to have my heart ready to forgive, is not always the same as being truly reconciled. Christ has made an atonement for the sins of the World. There is no sin and no sinner for which there is not provision for full and free forgiveness. But the tragic reality is, an offender never gets the benefit of that forgiveness until they repent. I may get the benefit in my heart, being at the ready – out of the bottomless ocean of God’s forgiveness for me – to be reconciled to them should they repent. But sadly and tragically, they cannot partake of the benefit of it if they remain unrepentant. They cannot have the joy of complete reconciliation even as I at the same time receive the joy of freedom from needing to prosecute the case anymore. Oh how we need to pray that they might turn by the power of the Holy Spirit, even as He has worked in our own hearts to turn and seek reconciliation with the Father through the Son.
Forgiveness is expensive. Forgiveness between God and us cost the blood of His eternal Son. And God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish in unforgiveness, but have the everlasting life His forgiveness brings. Heavenly Father, manifest your forgiving heart in me by your Spirit. In Jesus’ name. For Jesus’ sake.