“Over and over again in the New Testament, Christians are reminded that God has forgiven all their sins through Christ’s death. And time and again, too, Christians are commanded to forgive.” So writes Julia Marsden, author of the little 10 of Those book entitled Forgiveness. As Julia begins her book, she clears up some misunderstandings about forgiveness and then draws five truths from Jesus’ parable at the end of Matthew 18, and then a sixth truth from the overall teaching of the New Testament.
- Forgiveness means it’s over. The debt which is owed is cancelled. “Forgiveness means that you let go of the file of that person’s sin. You stop holding on to it. You stop holding it against them. It’s over.” The book’s cover image of a chalkboard that has been erased beautifully portrays this truth.
- Forgiveness is pure grace. It is totally undeserved. “Forgiveness is pure grace. The person doesn’t deserve it. That is the point. And because of this, there are no limits to forgiveness. You never reach a point where you can say, ‘That’s too much, now.’”
- Forgiveness is a two-sided transaction. It take two to complete it. “Forgiveness is like giving someone a gift, or giving someone the hand of friendship. I can offer it. I can put out my hand to you. But if you don’t receive it, if you don’t put out your hand to accept mind, there is a sense in which forgiveness remains only half done.”
- Forgiveness is a decision of the will. You choose to do it. “I think we tend to think of forgiveness as an emotion. But the Bible talks about forgiveness as a decision of the will….Emotional change may follow, but forgiveness itself is a decision.”
- Forgiveness is like a key to a door. Its aim is to open the way to a restored relationship. “The context of Jesus’ story in Matthew 18 is reconciliation within the church family. Forgiveness is never an end in itself….Christ dies to end the divide and restore the relationship. Our forgiveness of others should have the same aim.”
- Forgiveness is possible because sin is fully and finally paid for. “When God forgives me, when He forgives you, He does so because our sin is paid for. Jesus paid for it as He died on the cross. He was paying the price for our sin, bearing the punishment our sin deserved.”
Pass the file to God…
The author wraps up her little book with this admonition:
When God calls on me to forgive, He is not calling on me to rip up the file of that person’s sin. He is asking me to let go of it and give it to Him to deal with. He is saying, “Pass it to Me. Leave it with Me. You can trust Me to deal with it.” You can trust Me to deal with it.” We find it hard to do that. But actually God is inviting us to walk in a pathway of great blessing. He is inviting us to give up carrying around the burden of that file, which pulls us down towards bitterness.”
We must take the matter of an unforgiving spirit seriously, for “refusing to forgive someone is spiritual suicide.”