Here at the blog we have been thinking much the past week about forgiveness and the root of bitterness that grows in its absence. Today, let’s think about what may be the two most important New Testament passages concerning horizontal forgiveness (forgiveness between people) that should flow from vertical forgiveness (forgiveness from God). I recommend you walk through this study in your own personal Bible time and/or your small group. We will answer two questions:
- What is my responsibility when I have sinned against another person?
- What is my responsibility when I have been sinned against?
WHEN YOU HAVE SINNED (Matthew 5:23-24)
1. Keep reconciliation of relationships in the body of Christ a high priority. Resist hypocritical worship and service to the Lord. Be willing to alter your schedule to make things right with another believer. See also Ephesians 4:1-3. We are called to preserve the unity that exists between believers in Christ. Also note Colossians 3:14, which calls us to love (which forgiveness flows from) as the perfect bond of unity.
2. Take the initiative to go to the one you’ve offended. Don’t wait for the other person to come to you. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I looked someone in the eye and said, ‘I was wrong. Will you forgive me?’” If it’s been a long time then you have a problem with pride. Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Study James 4:1-10.
WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN SINNED AGAINST (Matthew 18:21-35)
1. Stop your record-keeping (vv. 21-22). See 1 Corinthians 13:5. Keeping a record of the sins of others demonstrates a shortage of biblical love. Destroy your sin lists.
2. Remember how much God has forgiven you (vv. 23-27). The ESV Study Bible approximates that 10,000 talents is equivalent to $6 billion in our day, while 100 denarii equals about $12,000. What’s the point? God has, in Christ, forgiven us an incomprehensible sin debt. Therefore, the extent to which God has forgiven us is the new standard of our obligation to forgive others. The sin of another person against us has no comparison to our sin against God. See also Ephesians 4:32.
3. Extend that same grace to others (vv. 28-30). Notice that the forgiven slave who refused to forgive another is called “wicked.” Do we view an unforgiving spirit in ourselves as that serious? See also Colossians 3:12-13.
4. Be prepared to be confronted by others if you are unforgiving person (v. 31). An unforgiving person will stand out like a sore thumb in a forgiven community (local church). We must love each other enough to address this. See Galatians 6:1-2.
5. Take God’s warning seriously (vv. 32-35). This passage ends with one of the most serious warnings in Scripture, which is also taught by Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15.
In conclusion, meditate on Romans 12:18-21. How does this Scripture passage apply to the problem of bitterness and the need for the ongoing practice of forgiving one another?
If we are in Christ then we have been forgiven. Now, it’s time to get serious about becoming forgiving.