“Then said Jesus, father forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34
There may be no word in the English Bible that stir the sinner`s heart like forgiveness. This contributes to the expression of the great poet Alexander Pope who wrote “to err is human, to forgive is divine”. There are two sides to forgiveness, the divine forgiveness and human forgiveness.
Biblically, forgiveness is to send away or pardon of sins. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the remission of sin (Matt. 26:28, Acts 2:38). Another concept of forgiveness is to bestow favour or show kindness (Rom. 8:32). Paul in his writings admonishes the saints to forgive a certain wayward brother that he might not be overcome with sorrow (II Cor. 2:7). In Colossians 3:13, Paul twice urged believers to extend forgiveness to one another. There is the suggestion that just as the Lord graciously forgave us, we should wholeheartedly extend the same kindness to others.
There are numerous expressions of forgiveness revealing the mind of God. David praised the creator for His loving kindness because He has separated his sins form him like east from the west (Ps. 103:12). Likewise king Hezekiah thanked God for his redemption, proclaiming that “you have thrown all my sins behind your back” (Isa.38:17).
In the New Testament, pardon is evident when one turns to God in obedience (Aces 3:19). God will “Wash away” sins (Acts 22:16).
IMPLICATIONS OF FORGIVENESS
The idea of forgiveness reveals that an offense has been committed, the fact that they have committed offenses against their creator (I Jn. 3:4). Secondly, forgiveness implies the personal inability to remedy the violation of law.
In Matthew 18:25, Jesus showed a man who owe but could not payback. That man represents each of us; we do not have the capacity to remedy our despicable sins committed against God and humanity. Sin cannot be undone by any human tricks. It is only the compassion of the Lord that can upturn our sin and make sinner a saint (Matt. 18:27).
CAN HUMAN BEINGS FORGIVE SINS
The prerogative to forgive sins lies with the Saviour. He alone has the right to forgive sins. When the Lord once asserted His divine nature by forgiving a man`s sins, his Jewish opponents were disturbed, silently thinking “who can forgive sins but one even God” (Mark 2:7); Truly they were correct, because every sin committed is against God. Gen. 39:9, Ps. 51:4 reveals that all sins were committed against God even when it is done to a fellow human being.
However, Jesus gave the right to forgive sins to His followers after His resurrection (John 20:23). The truth of the matter is that the people already forgiven by God are those that can be forgiven by the apostles. The forgiveness of sin must be in harmony with divine pronouncement.
HOW DO WE FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER?
Our forgiveness of each other has to do more with an attitude than specific act. The following principles highlight the sort of temperament that one must cultivate to have Christ-like attitude of forgiveness (Luke 23:34).
The forgiving person does not attempt to take revenge upon those who have wronged him (Rom. 12:17ff).
The forgiving does not hate the offender, rather in spite of the person`s evil he loves like Christ.
The forgiving person is kindly disposed and tenderhearted toward his enemies (Eph. 4:32).
The forgiving person is approachable and accessible, he leaves door for reconciliation wide open and longs for the welfare of the transgressor.
The forgiving person is not merely aloof or passive in waiting for the offender to repent, he actively seeks the repentance of the one who wronged him or her (Matt. 18:15-17).
Jesus addressing Peter`s question concluded that we can expect pardon from God only when we are willing to extend forgiveness to others “from your hearts” (Matt. 18:35). There is a wide gap between lip forgiveness and heart forgiveness.
A lot of Christians struggle with the challenge of forgiveness especially when the sin/offense is grievous like stealing or killing. To overcome the challenge, we must know that forgiveness does not mean that the sin is to be ignored. There are both moral and civil consequences to a horrible act. Even though the offender could obtain pardon from God, through his obedience to the gospel like Saul of Tarsus, he must still suffer the temporal consequence of his violation of civil law.
For forgiveness to take root in our lives, we must take note of the value of the human soul (Matt. 16:26, I Cor. 8:11, I Tim. 2:6). Since Jesus died for all, we should not be selective with regard to those who are willing to forgive. Likewise, we must not treat a sin as atrocious act. We look upon murder as a particularly atrocious but God put it in the same catalog with strife, malice, backbiting etc. until we view sin as the Holy creator does, we can hardly afford to be selective in what sins we will pardon. It is terrible and damaging to forget many sins of which we`ve been forgiven (II Pet. 1:9).
THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS RECEIVED
As Jesus was visiting in the home of a Pharisee, named Simon, a ‘sinful’ woman likely a former prostitute came into the house, she went directly to Jesus with her tears, she washed Jesus` feet, drying his feet with her long hair, she gently kissed and anointed them with precious ointment (Luke 7:36ff). Jesus Christ remarked that her actions were the result of the forgiveness she had received from Him. Her lavish actions were issuing form a heart of profound gratitude.
Conclusion: It is apparent that forgiveness is necessary if we will be able to relate with God, mankind and receive answer to our requests from God. Many homes and family are in disarray because members of family cannot express forgiveness. God require that we forgive like Him so that our joy can be restored. When Jesus forgave the woman, both Jesus and the woman benefitted. If Jesus had refused to forgive on the cross, the purpose of His mission on earth might not have been accomplished. Let us act like Jesus on the cross and wholeheartedly forgive our children, spouse and neighbors.