Forgiveness In Faith
Releasing feelings of resentment
To practice Forgiveness I will:
- be quick to forgive
- apologize and ask for forgiveness
- let go of hurts
- not seek revenge
- respond kindly to those who hurt me
Scripture Readings: Matthew 18:21-35, Philippians 2:1-11
Forgiveness is a well-known tenant of a Christian’s faith. Our very faith is founded on Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness of sins. We recognize that without accepting Christ’s sacrifice we are not reconciled to God and cannot have a relationship with him. We know that forgiveness is pivotal in our relationship with God, but with people, we struggle. When Peter asks in Matthew 18 how many times we are to forgive our brother, the congregation leans in closer for the response and shifts uncomfortably in their seats when Jesus replies, 7 x 70 (Matt. 18:22). Why is it so hard to accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sin but when it comes to forgiving others, we hesitate? The short answer: We want to be God.
From the very beginning, equality with God has been a temptation that is hard to resist. Eve is deceived into thinking if she eats the fruit she will be like God (Genesis 3:4) so she and Adam eat the fruit. Pride pops up again in their responses to God asking if they ate the fruit. Accusations fly (verses 11-13) and the responsibility of the eating is placed on the woman and, then, the snake. There is no admission of wrong, not humble repentance, only responsibility placed on someone else’s shoulders.
There is no discussion of whether or not Adam and Eve forgive one another for being cast out of the garden, but it would not be a far stretch to believe there was some resentment and bitterness between them. Today’s relationships are no different. When hurt occurs and reconciliation does not, that hurt begins to fester. The hurt manifests itself in the form of anger, resentment, and bitterness, to name a few. We may not label these manifestations as withholding forgiveness and thereby exhibiting pride, but a closer look highlights the truth.
A quick Google search defines resentment as “bitter indignation of having been treated unfairly.” Another search unveils indignation as “feeling or showing anger because of something unjust or unworthy” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). The rhetoric of these definitions centers on how the offended person feels and perceives an insult or injury. Now, it is understandable that insults and injury hurt. However, when the focus turns inward and that hurt puffs up and the rhetoric of thought towards a person or event turns into desires for revenge or justice, we are placing ourselves in a seat that only God is worthy of filling. Romans12:19 clearly instructs, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” We are not in a position to doll out justice. God is the ultimate judge and there will be consequences for those who do.
Christ warns in Matthew 7:1-3 not to judge another for by the measure you judge you too will be measured. Another warning is found in Matthew 18. After Jesus instructs the people to forgive multiple times, the passage continues with a parable of the unforgiving debtor. The debtor gets forgiven a debt of millions of dollars (verses 23-27) but will not forgive a debt owed to him of a few thousand (verse 28). The king becomes furious with his actions, throws him in jail and tortures him until he pays his entire debt (verses 32-34). Jesus ends this passage with a stark warning, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (verse 35). Forgiveness is an expectation of being a Christ follower.
To be called Christ followers, we must imitate Christ in mind and action. Paul writes on this very point in Philippians 2:5-8:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Paul underlines Christ’s humility. Jesus was God in flesh but didn’t use his power to puff himself up or abuse his power to control situations to make Himself appear important. Instead, he, the eternal God, accepted his limitations as a man and went to death. Paul emphasizes that it wasn’t just death as in old age or illness but death on a cross, implying also, a death at the hands of others. Paul wants us to fully accept the image of Christ’s humility so that we too may hold the weight of our forgiveness.
Paul also instructs us on our behavior in Ephesians 4: 31-32:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Paul is direct and concise. We are to discard anything that creates discord and work towards creating unity with one another. Compassion and forgiveness restore relationships; the rest destroy.
In short, to imitate Christ is to live a life that is not dictated by pride but rather by sacrifice and service. We are called to die to self-gratifying resentment and indignation. We are called to recognize the authority of the Lord to exact justice. We are to accept our position as servants to Him and to one another. And, we are to forgive our brothers and sisters, no matter the insult or injury.
• What memories continue to illicit anger, resentment or indignation?
• Where might God be calling you to sacrifice “self” for another?
Pray and ask God to bring to mind areas of lingering hurt. Write a list of each memory He reveals. Pray over the list and when ready, pray aloud that you forgive each situation and person. Throw the list away after or write “Forgiven” over each in bold letters. Repeat as many times as needed.