Focus: Forgetting the past
Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV) Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
I was thinking today about the depth of Jesus’ forgiveness and the quality of His willingness to forgive. The extent of His love is impossible to comprehend.
As humans, it sometimes seems like a big deal for us to forgive someone who has offended us even just a little—when all we have to do is say, ‘okay’. It’s not like it costs us anything more than a tiny bit of pride. For more than a minor offense, it might not be that easy to say, ‘sure, no problem’—especially if we experienced serious pain—but we are still commanded to ‘forgive’.
Think about Jesus and the amount of offense He endured. At any time He could have said, ‘Okay, I changed my mind—this is really not worth it’—or, ‘Okay, I’ll forgive your sins—but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be your friend’.
- According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of ‘forgive’, is as follows: FORGIVE transitive verb 1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one’s enemies>
- Wikipedia says, forgiveness is: the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.
- The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness this way: ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt’.
Today’s popular teachings about co-dependency and boundaries have put strong limitations on the extent of privileges the person who is being ‘forgiven’ should have. Forgiveness, according to God’s standard is so much different than what we have decided is right.
In our generation, people have invented their own definition for the word ‘forgive’. Our interpretation goes more like this: If someone offends you, you can tell them you forgive them, but you don’t ever have to feel obligated to trust them again and you certainly shouldn’t let them back into your life.
True forgiveness should mean the same as, ‘it didn’t happen’, or, ‘I won’t ever bring it up again’. You can’t say you forgive someone and then use that offense against them at a later time. If you really forgive an offense—you forget it.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there was a completely different standard. Forgiveness was granted when sacrifices or restitution was made. Typically, it was, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. In other words, when someone caused you any kind of loss—you were entitled to bring the same burden on them. God was normally approached only through a priest. There were few people—before Christ—who really ‘knew God’.
Jesus came bringing a whole new code of ethics. In the eighth chapter of the book of Hebrews in the Bible, verses ten through twelve, we read: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (NKJV)
The reason Jesus died was so we could be friends with Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. God wanted us to know Him. He wanted a closer, real relationship with us. He knew we were failures. He wanted us to become perfect and holy, but He knew we would struggle trying to live up to a perfect standard of Holiness. He wanted a relationship with us so much that He was willing to go to great lengths. A perfect blood sacrifice was the only way He could do it. His Son was the only possible candidate.
Imagine someone offending you and having to see your only child die in order to restore your friendship with the person who offended you. That is unthinkable to us as humans—yet, that is what God did because He loved us and wanted our friendship.
Declaration: When I feel that someone who has offended me is unworthy of my friendship, I will remember the love of God that surpasses all understanding. I will follow His example and be willing to not only forgive, but forget.
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