by Keith Bellamy
Can you forgive? Do you have trouble forgiving?
Recently I was reading where a man got into trouble for something that was very criminal. He did his time in prison and tried to work with a church that claimed to want ex-offenders in their fellowship. The man served his sentence, and from all reports he has tried to learn from his crime. However, there were those in that church who avoided him and didn’t really want to fellowship him. And there were those who would forever brand him. I can’t do that. The early church was full of people who had done some terrible things. The Apostle Paul even admitted to persecuting Christians before he became one.
In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul listed some terrible things of which many were guilty. He reminded them in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (NIV)
If you are a Christian, you were forgiven a terrible debt when Jesus Christ washed your sins away. To be honest you didn’t deserve it, nor did I. But Jesus paid that debt because of His Father’s love for you and me (John 3:16).
Sometimes we get so self-righteous. We can see the sins and faults of others, but not our own. Romans 3:23, still says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So, why do we play judge so much of the time?
Notice the words of Matthew 18:21, 22, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’.” I once asked some young people if that meant that after 490 times, I didn’t have to forgive them anymore. Thankfully they were smart and knew better.
But at times we don’t get it, do we? Jesus then told a parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about the unmerciful servant. From that parable we need to understand that we have a debt that is impossible to pay.
If God can forgive us, why can’t we forgive others? We don’t have a choice, do we?