One of the great principles of the Christian life is forgiveness. Jesus modeled this principle for us when he hung on the cross and prayed for the very people who had put him there. His words were so powerful and unexpected that they brought about the conversion of one of the thieves hanging on the cross next to him. Because completely forgave us, he wants us to follow his example by forgiving others. We need to follow Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”
God Desires to Forgive Us
From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love and an overflowing supply of salvation. He himself will free Israel from every kind of sin.
Forgiveness Should Have No limits
Then Peter came to him and asked. “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”For this reason the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. But the man fell down before the king and begged him, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me, and I will pay it all’ Then the king was filled with pity with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were upset. They went to the king and told him what had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.”
Forgiveness Is Not Selective
“You have heard the law of Moses says, ‘If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other too. If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
“You have heard the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt, tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”