As I think about the George Floyd trial and the verdict this week, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is never a choice we willingly make.
You hear a lot about choosing to forgive, but for a Christ follower, it’s not a choice. It’s a command.
A few years ago while working as a church secretary at my former church, I went through a rough patch with my pastor. We were butting heads frequently, and there were days when I didn’t feel like going into the office.
One thing I kept asking the Lord to help me with during that difficult season was to guard my heart. I prayed specifically that my heart would not become bitter towards my pastor.
…forgiveness is a heart issue
Unforgiveness is a deceitful foe. It makes you think that if you stay angry with a person or situation, you’re hurting them in the process. But the opposite is true. The only person we hurt is ourselves when we refuse to forgive.
Make no mistake that forgiveness is a matter of the heart. Jesus made that clear in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
As racial tension and issues continue to flourish around our nation in the wake of police violence and hate crimes in general, it’s very easy to take on an attitude of unforgiveness towards those who are involved in perpetrating such crimes against humanity. Perhaps more so when we’ve been wronged personally by someone..
However, Jesus, tells us a different story when it comes to offenses and unforgiveness:
One day Jesus taught his disciples: “Betrayals are inevitable, but great devastation will come to the one guilty of betraying others. 2 It would be better for him to have a heavy boulder tied around his neck and be hurled into the deepest sea than to face the punishment of betraying one of my dear ones! So be alert to your brother’s condition, 3 and if you see him going the wrong direction, cry out and correct him. If there is true repentance on his part, forgive him. 4 No matter how many times in one day your brother sins against you and says, ‘I’m sorry; I am changing; forgive me,’ you need to forgive him each and every time.”
The disciples replied in a way many of us would think to ourselves:
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” - Luke 17:5
Because that’s exactly what it would take for us to forgive someone who has clearly offended us…FAITH.
Forgiveness is never a choice because we choose it…
With that being said, Jesus wasn’t moved by their request. Instead He went on to tell of a parable about our faith and duty.
7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” - Luke 17:7-10
In other words, Jesus was saying, “do what I have told you to do”. Forgiveness is never a choice, because we choose it, but because Jesus commanded it.
True faith in Christ and forgiveness go hand in hand. We can’t have one without doing the other.
Christ betrayed no one, yet He did the most loving thing for ALL of us on the Cross. In the process we received His forgiveness for our sins. How much more do we need to be mindful of forgiving others?
In the long run, forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, but it’s the loving thing to do and the Lord commands us to do it.