Build Your Altars - The Altar of Forgiveness
Part Two - Our Need to Forgive Others
As I said yesterday forgiveness is a very important altar in the life of a Christian. It's important, of course, because without God's forgiveness to us, we would be eternally lost. But it's also important because our forgiveness to others shows our relationship with Christ.
Check out these verses from Matthew 6:
"14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
I don't know about you, but I think those are pretty serious words. Does that mean that refusing to forgive someone makes us lose our salvation? I don't think so. I think it should make us question if we were ever truly saved at all.
The Life Application Bible has a good note about this:
"We can't earn forgiveness by forgiving others. But when we withhold forgiveness from others after having received it ourselves, it shows that we don't understand or appreciate God's mercy toward us."
Jesus never taught that we could earn our salvation. He repeatedly told us that He alone was the One Way to the Father. I believe He was saying that all men are undeserving of God's forgiveness, yet God wants to forgive us anyway. If we are truly repentant, we will realize how undeserving we are of God's mercy. The fact that we have been accepted in spite of being so unworthy should soften our hearts towards those who have asked our forgiveness. Because no matter how much they have hurt us, it could never equal up to how we ourselves had hurt God in the past.
The Life Application Bible has another good note about this:
"As we come to understand His mercy...we will want to be like Him. Having received forgiveness, we will want to pass it on to others. Those who are unwilling to forgive have not become one with Christ, who was willing to forgive even those that crucified Him."
Did you read that last part. Yeah, the part where Christ was even willing to forgive those who crucified Him? That's a pretty huge amount of forgiveness isn't it? Now you might say that Jesus was God, and on this earth we will never reach that level of forgiveness, but it is possible. There are several examples of Christ-like forgiveness in God's Word.
David showed this kind of forgiveness hundreds of years before Christ was ever born. Now David was under the law, not under grace, but I believe that David knew much about God's love. After all, he was called a man after God's own heart. And I think that his forgiveness toward Saul in II Samuel 1:11-12 may be part of the reason he earned that title.
Take a look at these verses from II Samuel 1:
"11Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:
12And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword."
Now David doesn't actually say the words, "I forgive Saul" in these verses. But I think it's pretty obvious that he held no ill-will toward the man who had made him live as a fugitive, constantly fearing for his life. Saul would have killed David at any opportune moment, yet David rent his clothes and wept at the news of Saul's death. That's a forgiving heart.
Then in the New Testament we see another example. You remember Paul that we talked about yesterday. Well before he became a Christian he stood by while men stoned a preacher named Steven to death. Steven showed Christ-like forgiveness until the end. Check out his last words in Acts 7:60,
"And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
"Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Such awesome words of forgiveness. I've never faced physical persecution, but I pray that, if I'm ever in a situation like Steven, I will show Christ's love until the end.
Christ-like forgiveness isn't easy, but it is possible if we will remember that we are all sinners. There is not one of us that is perfect. A note from the Life Application Bible says it this way:
"When we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness."
If ever I have a problem with holding a grudge, I remember that Jesus loved that person enough to die on Calvary. And my love is supposed to mirror His love. After all, they will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35.)
So build that altar of forgiveness in your life. And if you ever have problems with forgiving someone, simply to look back to the place where God forgave you.