Thursday, November 15, 2018

Forgiveness is an Action

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3b).

In this passage, Jesus teaches about forgiveness. There are several aspects of forgiveness we need to note. First, although most Christians today believe we are obliged to forgive people whether they repent or not, this is not the teaching of Jesus. For our own psychological well-being, we need to turn such people over to God, but we need not pretend that the problem has been resolved, unless there is true repentance.

Second, though Jesus tells us to rebuke a brother when he sins, this does not mean we have to rebuke everyone we encounter over every little fault. Remember the Bible also tells us love overlooks a multitude of sins. However, faithfulness to God sometimes requires us to deliver a reproof.

Third, Jesus commands us to forgive a person if he or she asks for it. In fact, Jesus said that even if we are sinned against seven times in one day, we are to forgive each time that person asks for forgiveness (v. 4). How can we know if the person has really repented? Repentance may be measured by different sorts of restitution, when necessary. Ultimately, though, only God can read the heart. We are required, however, to accept a person’s apology. If it is not genuine, God will deal with the situation.

Fourth, forgiveness means acting as if all is forgotten. Forgiveness is a practical act, not a feeling. I may not feel warm and forgiving, but I can act as if all is forgiven and forgotten. At the same time, if a person has sinned against God and has refused to repent, I am not to pretend that nothing has happened. I may not continue to feel angry about it, but for the sake of God’s glory and in order to bear witness to God’s holy intolerance for sin, I must continue to act in the light of the person’s refusal to repent.

Today we have studied four perspectives on forgiveness. Use them to test yourself: From whom do you need to ask forgiveness? Is there anyone you have refused to forgive who asked you for it? Have you forgiven but not forgotten? If a situation warrants it, honor Christ by refusing to forgive an impenitent sinner and, if applicable, by upholding the judgment of the church against him.