Lessons on Forgiveness
In the church, there will always be the potential for us to sin against each other. The key to healthy relationships within the body of Christ is measured by our willingness to forgive each other. As believers, we are to forgive one another every time someone sins against us. Jesus teaches this clearly in Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Here in this passage, Peter is asking the question about how often we should forgive those that have sinned against us. Peter being noble, so he thought, asked, “Should I forgive my brother up to seven times?” Peter's question regarding forgiveness was a totally outdated notion of forgiveness. This was actually the Jewish expression of forgiveness, which was limited. The Lord Jesus gives Peter a new teaching on how believers should forgive one another. Jesus tells Peter that we are to forgive numerous times. Essentially, what Jesus is teaching Peter is that as redeemed sinners we must be ready to always forgive without limits.
What Jesus wants Peter to understand is that we must always be ready to forgive because we have been forgiven. Therefore, we must forgive each other. The apostle Paul reaffirms this teaching in Ephesians 4:32," forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” We are called to forgive just as God has forgiven us. If we think about it, we are called to live a life of forgiveness.
I want to give four truths to help us learn how to ask for forgiveness.
Repentance is necessary: Whenever we sin against another, we must first realize that we have sinned against God. Just like King David in Psalm 51:4," before you alone have I sinned." David understands that his sin is against a holy God. For those who have sinned against another, we must first do our business with God before we go to the offended.
Confess your specific sin: Biblical forgiveness always begins with recognizing our sins against another. When we seek forgiveness from others, we should never use words that are general in nature. For example, if I hurt you statements are not biblical and communicate a lack of responsibility for our actions. In 1 John 1:9, we are told to confess our sins, not in generalities, but specifically. We must confess our sin to those we have hurt. Here is an example, “John, please forgive me for talking to you in a sinful manner. Will you please forgive me? I know that God was not pleased with my unkind words.” May our forgiveness look like this!
Restitution: As we seek forgiveness from others, we must build integrity by owning our personal sin, and we must desire to make the relationship right again. This is done by possessing humility and a willingness to glorify God in all that we do.
Change: We must not only desire to change; we must put forth the effort to change so that we do not offend again. If we are repentant, it will be seen in our desire to change. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 7 points out that true repentance brings about godly change. If we are not willing to kill our sin, which has hurt others, then our repentance will be in question.
May we learn to forgive lavishly and seek forgiveness if we have offended, just as our Lord Jesus commands!