Forgiveness. It is in very short supply in our society today. Ours is the "cancel culture." Violate one of our cardinal rules and you are not only in violation -- you are out ... as permanently as we can make it. (That is, as long as your not one of the insiders.)
Forgiveness, however, is critical. When the disciples asked their Teacher to teach them to pray, one of the fundamental components of prayer offered by Christ was "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). What can we learn from this?
Since this is a fundamental component of prayer, it must be true that forgiveness is critical. And that leads us to conclude that we all need it. None of us are without sin. Still. All of us need to confess (1 John 1:9). Our sin is paid for, once and for all, but in order to remain in close relationship we need to confess sin. To "confess" is literally to "say with." Confession, then, is agreeing with God about what He calls "sin" in our lives. To deny sin is a lie (1 John 1:8,10). While we often like to see ourselves on the "moral high ground," if we don't see ourselves as sinners, we're lying to ourselves.
Another thing we can learn is that sin incurs debt. Some use the word "trespasses. The Greek there is ὀφείλημα -- opheilēma. It is a pecuniary term meaning "to owe." So, while we certainly owe God obedience -- "no trespassing" so to speak -- the idea in the Greek is a debt. So in Paul's letter to the saints at Colossae, he said that Christ had "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us." (Colossians 2:14) Sin, then, incurs debt between us and God. It isn't minor. We owe perfect obedience (Matthew 5:48) and anything less requires "payback." Except once perfect obedience is lost, how do you pay that back? How do you proceed with better than perfect obedience to pay back that missing part? Can't be done. So it is a debt we incur and a debt we cannot pay. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
One more important lesson here. In giving us that necessary component of prayer -- requesting forgiveness -- He followed up with some critical explanations. (Interestingly He didn't follow up on any other explanations of other components; just this one.)
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Yikes! Jesus declared our own forgiveness as contingent on the forgiveness we give others! Paul told the church at Ephesus, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32) So we are to forgive (it is a command) as God has forgiven us in Christ. God didn't forgive on the basis of our restitution, but on the basis of Christ having paid the price. Mercy and grace. So, too, are we to forgive. And if we don't forgive, we shouldn't expect mercy and grace from God.
Port these into today's environment. We are a "cancel culture" that is unwilling to show grace, unwilling to show mercy, unwilling to forgive. The mere idea of restoring the fallen is offensive to us as a society. I beg of you, dear Christian, that this doesn't describe you. I urge you not to fall for that line of thinking, that attitude. Because it will not go well for us if we refuse to forgive. "If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Don't be that person.
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