Make the four promises of forgiveness.
- Matt 6:12; 1 Cor 13:5.
So when we forgive, and yes, these promises of forgiveness. What does it mean? We’re compelled to forgive, not just commanded, but by the example and the power of Christ we can forgive. Well, what does it mean?
I will not think about this incident.
And the promises of forgiveness make me think of Jeremiah 31:34, where it says, in the new covenant God will remember our sins no more. Well, what does that mean? God being, we talked about his attributes, he is omniscient. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t remember that ya did it. What does it mean? He doesn’t remember them against you anymore. He treats us as if we had the perfect righteousness of Christ and we had never sinned because we are in Christ. And that’s how we are to forgive each other and so, in the promises of forgiveness, I will not think about this. We are responsible for how we think. And back to the wife whose husband had been unfaithful. If she’s sitting there doing the dishes and doing the laundry, and she’s picturing in her mind’s eye her husband in that other woman’s arms, what’s it gonna be like when he gets home? She’s gonna be a messed up, bitter, angry woman. And the bible says we are responsible for what we think about. We don’t just let whatever wants to come into our mind come there, stay there, and make a mess of things. Phillipians 4, Paul says, whatever is true and good and honorable, dwell on these things. You can choose to think about your sin and God’s grace instead of the sin of your spouse. You can think about the 10,000 talents instead of the 100 denari. So I can’t let this fill my mind.
I will not bring this incident up and use it against you.
I will not bring up this incident and use it against you. Once it is forgiven, you can’t, in the next time you have a conflict because he’s late from work or he didn’t help enough with the kids, you can’t go to the closet and pick up one of those skeletons and grab the thigh bone and start beating him over the head. Well, you remember when you did this to me four years ago? When it’s forgiven, you can’t use it against him ever again. And if you bring it up, you’re the one who has sinned and you’re the one who needs to seek forgiveness.
I will not talk to others about this incident.
That’s what forgiveness is. I’m not going to count it against you. I’m not gonna use it against you. I’m not gonna go talking to others about this. That’s also the temptation, isn’t it? Boy, let me tell you what she did to me. What a good guy I am that I forgave her. It could be a temptation to run down the reputation of the other person, to build yourself up.
I will not allow this incident to stand between us.
And then, I will not allow this incident to stand between us or to hinder our personal relationship. Our temptation when we are wronged is to want the other person to have to earn their way back. You want them to make it up to you. I face this temptation in my relationship with Caroline where, if in some rare instance she’s wronged me, then I kind of become Catholic and want her to do some penance. And do all these nice things for me if I’m gonna be nice to you again. But that’s not how God dealt with me. It means you treat them as if it didn’t happen. In the case of unfaithfulness, for the wronged spouse to say, okay, I’ll stay married, and I had one of these, as well. Okay, well I’m not gonna divorce him, but he’s never gonna touch me again. That’s not really forgiveness. Now I’m not saying, in this case I didn’t harshly admonish the woman, saying, well boy, if you don’t start being friendly to your husband, we’re gonna discipline you or something like that. I think that you need to understand how deeply hurt she is and the husband ought to be patient and give time, but the goal has to be, if you’re forgiving, it means you’re fully forgiving everything. And you’re resuming the relationship. Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Well I don’t feel it yet. The bible never says you’re gonna feel it. You choose to grant forgiveness when it’s right to do so according to the word of God, which again, speaking personally, when I forgive somebody, I’m then the one who has, sometimes, the temptation to stay upset or want to bring it up and then I have to fight in my own soul to keep the promise I made when I granted forgiveness.
Oh, and then another one is, forgiveness does not always eliminate all of the consequences. If, for example, you’ve committed a crime, it may wind up in the courts even if the person you’ve wronged has forgiven you. I have an example in my notes, in Numbers 14. It’s a very interesting situation where, in which the Lord, when the people rebelled and they didn’t want to follow the believing spies, they followed the unbelieving spies, in Moses’ day. In Numbers 14, verse 20, the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word,” Moses had intervened for them. “But indeed as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. Surely all the men who have seen my glory and my signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these 10 times and have not listened to my voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of them who spurned me see it, but my son, Caleb. I’m sorry, my servant, Caleb, because he has a different spirit, has followed me fully, and I will bring into the land which he has entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.” The Lord says in that example, okay I’ve forgiven them, meaning I’m not gonna send fire and brimstone and wipe them out and start all over again, but there is a consequence. Sometimes there are consequences. If you were the accountant and you embezzled a bunch of money, they’re not gonna let you keep doing the bank deposits afterwards. You may go to jail, you may have to pay it back, and you probably will have to find another job. So sometimes there are consequences. Different cases work out different ways.
Now one of the questions that also comes up a lot, well what if the person doesn’t repent at all? Then what do I do? What if they’re not sorry? What if they never ask my forgiveness? In my understanding of what the scripture teaches about this, is that forgiveness in a relationship can only be fully granted when the other person asks your forgiveness and you grant forgiveness. But, you can have a forgiving attitude to someone who hasn’t yet asked you. You can have a gracious attitude. You can still be ready to forgive, and in your heart forgiving them, and yet you hope one day they’ll seek your forgiveness. I have a situation in my life where somebody wronged me and, we worked overseas when I was in my 20s, we saved some money. Somebody we let borrow some of that money, cheated us out of a great deal of it. They’ve never sought my forgiveness. And I’ve had to go to the parable of the unmerciful servant in the case of this person more than anybody else I’ve ever known when I start to get upset about this. But, I still have a heart yearning for the day he will ask for forgiveness and admit what he did was wrong, and I’m not embittered in the meantime. I’m hoping that day will come. I can still be kind to that person, acting as if I had forgiven him, in a sense, yet hoping one day the Lord will open his eyes and he will seek my forgiveness. So that may create some questions when we get done with this section, but I’ll probably leave it to there. A great example in the bible of this is Joseph, with his brothers, where in Genesis 45, when they admit they’re wrong, he treats them as forgiven, he loves them, he cares for them, he’s affectionate to them. Although, interestingly, the words “will you forgive us” only occur in Genesis 50 many years later. Whether they actually said, will you forgive us before then, I’m not sure, but he treated them well in both cases.