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  • Writer's picturePastor Rachael Chinnery Todman

Forgiveness, Part 2: Stepping Stones to Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25

The struggle in the process of forgiving comes with questions like the following. “Why should I forgive?” “Why shouldn’t I make the person pay for the wrong they have done to me?” “Why should he or she not be punished?”

When it comes to offenses, hurts or feeling wronged by another person the victim does not possess the power or the advantage to demand payment for the wrong done to his, or her person. Repayment is impossible. However, one can choose to walk the road of revenge, get even. If this is the choice I want you to remember when you get even you have just placed yourself on the same level or, perhaps below the level of the person who has wronged you.

Revenge has a way of coming back to haunt you. Revenge takes the revenger into a rabbit hole of rancor, and ruthless retaliation. In the end, it will destroy the revenger’s character. If I cannot pay the person back and not seek revenge then perhaps I can hate the person. These are all valid thoughts and perhaps choices in the human soul. Wait a minute. Why don’t we stop and ask ourselves, “what does hatred do to the human soul?” “what will hatred do to my soul?”

If you or I choose to harbor hatred, it will grow in us like cancer. It can turn us into a person that you and I will not recognize after a while. We will not recognize ourselves and friends and family will wonder what has changed us into the person we have become. If you choose to incubate hatred, let me say it is costly. Hatred in the heart and mind can cause corrosion in one’s disposition, it can elevate blood pressure, affect the digestive system, cause ulcers, even cause a nervous breakdown or, even a heart attack.

Why would anyone choose to walk the road of repayment, the road of revenge, or the road of hatred? They all lead to slow internal suicide. So the best path then is to choose life over death. Jesus Christ gives us the answer for life and living—and that answer is to forgive the other when we are offended. Listen, we all need forgiveness. We cannot afford the luxury of not forgiving the other person. I know forgiving is hard. But only if you don’t need forgiveness then you can go on holding that grudge, but your prayers will not be answered. We all need forgiveness all the time and we need it often, don’t we?

Jesus said, “if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But If you will not forgive . . . neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures {Matthew 6:14, 15, Phillips}. A man by the name of George Herbert said, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has a need to be forgiven.”

Friends, according to Jesus we can conclude that forgiving and being forgiven is one thing—it’s the same bridge. Forgiving and being forgiven cannot be separated. An unforgiving heart is unforgivable. We must forgive, accept, and love. However, true forgiveness is the hardest thing in the universe.

Forgiveness is hard because it is costly. To forgive me you must freely accept the consequences of my sin and let me go free. In forgiveness, I have to endure my own anger and wrath for the sin of another and voluntarily accept responsibility for the hurt he or she has inflicted on me.

Forgiveness is substitutional thereby making it costly. This costly substitution was expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ substituted himself for us, taking on himself his own wrath and his own offense at our sin. Someone had to pay for sin. God the Father took it upon himself to pay the debt for the sin we owe God. We are the ones who refused to live right in his sight and we rebelled against his love. This debt was so vast, only God could pay. God paid the debt that we owe.

The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:19 “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Forgiveness comes down to this, either the sinner bears his own guilt—which is justice or, the one sinned against takes on the guilt of the sinner—that’s forgiveness! And that is what God did for us in Christ at Calvary. He, Christ tasted death for us all {Hebrews 2:9}. Listen to these stepping stones to forgiveness in Colossians 3:12-17 as written by the apostle Paul. He said “ put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . .and whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and give thanks to God the Father through Him.

We must forgive just as Christ has forgiven us. We must bear the cost of forgiving just as God did for us in Christ Jesus. Yes, forgiveness is hard. The cost is high, but “the value is higher.” We must forgive everything, not just the small stuff, but everything, even the hurts that cut to our very core—Jesus said “seventy times seven.”

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