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Why Forgive?

  • Published Sep 18, 2002
Why Forgive?
When I see people who claim to be followers of Jesus who are completely unwilling to forgive, I have to wonder how much they really know of the forgiveness of God. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

Jesus was teaching that we, as believers, should pray for personal forgiveness. I believe that every Christian should go to the Lord on a regular basis and say, “Lord, forgive me of my sin." There are all kinds of areas in which we can fall short. Sin is not only breaking God's commands, but it is also failing to do what is right. It is a good idea to say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Of course, we are living in a culture that doesn't like forgiveness. When is the last time you saw a movie that exalted forgiveness? I can think of a lot that dealt with payback and vengeance. We live in a culture that believes in the old adage, "Don't get mad, get even." In this uptight society, it is the exaltation of vengeance and violence everywhere you look.

Buried in the Old Testament is a classic picture of forgiveness, not only of a man forgiving a man, but also of God forgiving us. It is the story of a man who, when he became the King of Israel, wanted to do the right thing. It is a story of love and forgiveness, demonstrated by King David toward a man named Mephibosheth. Saul, David's predecessor, hated him. Filled with paranoia and jealousy, he wanted to put David to death. He put David on the run. For months, David was hiding in caves, going from place to place, trying to get away from Saul.

Saul had a son named Jonathan who became good friends with David. One day, David made a commitment to Jonathan and promised he would always look out for Jonathan, as well as his family members.

When Saul and Jonathan were killed on the battlefield, David came into power. He never paid back Saul in the way he deserved. He just left it in God's hands. You would have understood if the first thing David wanted to do as king of Israel was to kill any relative left in Saul's house, any potential rivals to the throne.

Instead, David asked, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?" (2 Samuel 9:3). Upon receiving an answer, David ordered Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, to be brought to him. That dreaded knock on the door finally came for Mephibosheth. He was brought before David. And to his surprise, he was unconditionally forgiven and accepted. His grandfather was the mortal enemy of King David, but David received him into his home as a member of his family. David could have had Mephibosheth killed, but he did not. What a great story of forgiveness.

I want you to know something. Forgiveness is not just suggested in Scripture. It is commanded by God Himself. I don't know about you, but I am not the kind of person who naturally wants to forgive. To be very blunt, I am the kind of person who wants to hit back. That is my nature. I don't defend it, but I do recognize it as a sinful aspect of who I am.

There are a lot of people who are eager to accept God's forgiveness, but they haven't forgiven other people. According to Jesus, our generous and constant forgiveness of others should be the natural result of our understanding of the forgiveness that God has extended to us.

If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, then you must ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged you. Ephesians 4:32 says, "And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

First we need to admit our own need for forgiveness. Then we need to extend that forgiveness to others. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," Jesus taught us. This is what we need to do.

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What a famous king can teach us about forgiving our enemies.