Forgiving One Another

Colossians 3:13

“13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Do you have someone’s face on the dartboard of your mind?  Be honest with yourself; are you holding a grudge against anyone?  Maybe there is a person you are holding a grudge against in the room with you right now.  Look around.  Is there someone whose face you see that you cannot forgive?   The scripture we read in Colossians teaches us to forgive one another.  Have you ever spent time with someone whose life is characterized by a spirit of forgiveness?  It is a beautiful thing to witness.  Contrast this with someone who is eaten up with the cancer of revenge.  These people are walking timebombs.  This festering unforgiveness searches for and finds a way to explode.  Have you heard of road rage?  Unfortunately, road rage is an all too common issue here in America, and it works something like this.  When someone accidentally cuts someone off while driving, the person cut off becomes angry and starts yelling and throwing hand gestures at the one who cut them off.  And the person who cut in front of the driver who became angry might not have done it on purpose.  However, the person that became angry because of the unforgiveness in their heart could not let it go.  For a Christian to be willfully unforgiving is unthinkable.  We, who God himself has forgiven, have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone.  Scripture commands us to forgive in the same manner we have received unforgiveness.

Ephesians 4:32

“32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Refusing to forgive is an act of direct disobedience against God.  In other words, refusing to forgive is a sin.  Forgiveness reflects the character of God, and therefore, unforgiveness is ungodly.  Unforgiveness is no less an offense to God than fornication or drunkenness, even though people may deem the latter offenses more unacceptable.  But the scripture is clear that God despises an unforgiving spirit.  We need to admit that forgiveness sometimes does not come easily, and often, we do not forgive as quickly or as graciously as we should.  I want you to think about your own home.  When your brother, sister, or neighbor does something against you, are you willing to forgive?  Or do you hold you hold a grudge and have an unforgiving spirit in your heart?  Forgiveness requires us to set aside our selfishness and accept with grace the wrongs others have committed against us and not demand what we think is our due.  Let’s look at Colossians 3:13 again.

“13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Forgiveness is so important to the Christians’ walk that it was never far from the lessons Jesus taught us.  We find forgiveness in his sermons, in His parables, and His private discussions with His disciples.  Jesus’s prayers filled His prayers with lessons of forgiveness.  For example,

Mathew 6:12

“12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

We find in Jesus’s prayer that forgiveness was very important to Him.  Let’s look at the scriptures following.

Mathew 6:14-15

“14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Forgiveness was so important to Jesus that if we don’t forgive others, Jesus can’t forgive us.  We find Jesus strongly taught if we don’t forgive others, he can’t forgive us.  I ask the question again; do you have anyone you can not forgive in your life?  Once again, forgiveness reflects the character of God, and therefore, unforgiveness is ungodly.  We need to practice forgiveness.

At the beginning of Mathew 18, the disciples were squabbling over who should be the most prominent person in the kingdom.  They brought their dispute to Jesus.  Jesus says the greatest qualification for a person in the kingdom of God is to be humble like little children and agreeable amongst themselves and use all means possible to reclaim those offended.  The most vocal apostle, Peter, heard Jesus and thought, “this is a hard doctrine.”  So, Peter asked Jesus the following question.

Mathew 18:21

“21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”

Peter thought forgiving his brother seven times was enough, and the eighth time he didn’t need to forgive.  But Jesus answered Peter in the following verse.

Mathew 8:22

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

The purpose of Jesus saying seven times 70 was not to give a number that would absolve us of forgiving, but instead to show that we shouldn’t keep track of the number of times someone offends us.  Forgiveness should be working all the time.

After answering Peter’s question, Jesus shared this parable to teach the importance of forgiveness to his disciples.  There was a king who called his servants before him.  It was found one servant owed 10 thousand talents.  A talent was a measurement or a salary, so one talent equals about 17 years of a salary, which means 10 thousand talents would be approximately 17 years of wages for 10 thousand people.  This amount of debt was unfathomable.  Maybe we could say it was like owing someone 100,000 000 shillings in today’s terms, an amount impossible to repay.  So, this man owed the king a considerable debt.  The king commanded the servant to sell all he had and go to jail.  But the servant begged the king for forgiveness, and the king in mercy and forgave the servant.  I am sure the forgiven servant went away thankful.  But then he found a fellow servant that owed him 100 pence, which was a small amount compared to what he had owed the king.  Then the forgiven servant went to his fellow servant and said, “Pay me the money you owe!”.  The fellow servant fell on his knees and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all that I owe.” But the forgiven servant did not respond in the same way as the king.  Instead, the forgiven servant threw his fellow servant in jail.  The servant had been forgiven an enormous debt but would not extend forgiveness to his fellow servant for the debt he could easily pay.  Other people that saw this went to the king and told the story.  The scripture shows us this made the king very unhappy.

Mathew 18:32-34

“32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.”

In this parable, Jesus was showing us how we should forgive others.  He sums it up in verse 35.

Mathew 18:35

“35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

Jesus will have no choice but to throw us into torment if we do not forgive others.  Another way to think of this is God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.  When we come to God, He forgives us and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.  God blots our sins and promises to remember them no more.  He doesn’t forgive and rescind His forgiveness.

Because of our committed sins, we come to God with a huge debt, and when we came to Him for salvation, he forgave us all our debt.  God also wants us to be people who have a heart of forgiveness toward others.

Colossians 3:12-13

“12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Search yourself deeply.  If there is someone you have not forgiven, God is challenging you now to forgive.  Just as Paul said to the people in Ephesians, be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.