A Forgiving Spirit
“Forgive us our sins; for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.” (Luke 11:4)
Forgiveness should start first from among us. Jesus teaches that we can receive forgiveness from God only as we forgive others. If we are unforgiving, we cut off the channel through which alone we can receive mercy from God. We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. They have a part to play, confess and repent of their wrong deeds, we should be ready to forgive them always, for this is the fruit of the spirit which comes from love.
However sorely they may have wounded us, we are not to cherish our grievances and sympathize with ourselves over our injuries; but as we hope to be pardoned for our offenses against God we are to pardon all who have done evil to us. In Jesus’ death, He was done wrong by His enemies, but even to that extent he pleads to the Father for their forgiveness. So our character should be that of Christ because we are His followers, we should follow every step taken by Him.
“God’s forgiveness toward us lessens in no wise our duty to obey Him. So the spirit of forgiveness toward our fellow men does not lessen the claim of just obligation. In the prayer which Christ taught His disciples He said, ?forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ (Matthew 6:12) By this He did not mean that in order to be forgiven our sins we must not require our just dues from our debtors. If they cannot pay, even though this may be the result of unwise management, they are not to be cast into prison, oppressed or even treated harshly.” (COL 247)
ELISHA & THE ASSYRIAN ARMY
In Elisha’s closing ministry, the King of Syria sought to destroy Elisha because of his activity in apprising the King of Israel of the plans of the enemy. All the Syrian plans were revealed to the prophet of God, Elisha and this made the King of Syria angry. So, he sought from his servants who may be revealing his plans to the King of Israel, and he was told that it was Elisha.
The Assyrian King was determined to make way with the prophet; he sent his servants to spy where Elisha lodged. After learning where he lodged they came by night, and compassed the city. When the servant of the man of God was risen early, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots.
“In terror Elisha’s servant sought him with the tidings. ‘Alas, my master’ he said, ‘how shall we do?’ ‘Fear not,’ was the answer of the prophet; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.’ And then, that the servant might know this for himself, ?Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see.’ The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.’ Between the servant of God and the hosts of armed foemen was an encircling band of heavenly angels.” (PK 256)
As Elisha’s servant saw this, he was now without fear. Elisha again prayed to the Lord so that the band might be smote with blindness, and the Lord did according to the word of Elisha. So Elisha led them to Samaria. As they reached there, Elisha prayed to the Lord that their eyes could be opened, and their eyes were opened and they saw, and behold they were in the midst of Samaria.
“And the King of Israel said unto Elisha when he saw them, my father, shall I smite them? Shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou has taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set water and bread before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared them a great provision for them; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master.” (2 King 6:22 – 23, PK 257)
The enemies of Elisha were treated well; instead of being killed, the servant of God, Elisha, had compassion upon them and left them unharmed. He had power to destroy them all, because when he prayed to the Lord that they be smote with blindness, he could have killed them all. But he wanted them to learn that he was not doing his own will but God’s. We are also to treat our enemies as Elisha did, to forgive and love them, not to count what they have done to us, or wronged us, but always to be forgiving, for this is the fruit of the spirit which comes from love.
JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHER
“Please forgive the crime your brothers committed when they wronged you. Now please forgive us the wrong that we, the servants of your father’s God, have done.” (Genesis 50:17 2nd Part)
These were Joseph’s brothers pleading for forgiveness from their brother. They had done him wrong when they were still youths, but now being old people, they had come from their land because of famine. During the years since Joseph had been separated, his brothers were changed. Envious, turbulent, deceptive, cruel, revengeful, and unforgiving they were, but now when tested they were seen to be unselfish, true to one another.
While in Egypt, they were changed people from the old person to a new person. First, they asked for forgiveness from their old-aged father whom they had deceived for a long time, and their father forgave and blessed them. Now a part still remained for them to play, they were to ask for forgiveness from their brother. They feared that he might have delayed his revenge in regard to their father, and that he would now visit upon them the long-deferred punishment for their crime.
After the burial of their father, fear filled their hearts, so they dared not to appear before him in person but sent a message; ‘Thy father did command before he died, saying, so shall ye say unto Joseph, forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of they brethren, and their son; for they did unto thee evil; and now we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of God of thy father.’ This message affected Joseph to tears, and, encouraged by this, his brothers came and fell down before him, with the words, ‘Behold we be thy servants. Joseph’s love for his brothers was deep and unselfish, and he was pained at the thought that they could regard him as cherishing a spirit of revenge towards them. ‘Fear not,’ he said, ‘for am I in the place of God.’… I will nourish you and your little ones.” (PP 239)
Joseph’s life should be ours also for his patience and meekness under injustice and impression, his ready forgiveness and noble benevolence toward his unnatural brothers, represents the Saviour’s uncomplaining endurance and malice and abuse of the wicked men, and His forgiveness, not only of his murderers, but of all who have come to him confessing their sins and seeking pardon. So it is with Joseph, who gave pardon to his brothers and became a saviour to them.
JESUS’ FORGIVING SPIRIT
Jesus calls us to come to Him for the forgiveness of our sins, He knows the circumstances of every soul. You may be a sinner; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He bids every trembling soul to take courage and he freely will pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration. He says, ‘come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ (Isaiah 1:18)
In the ministry of Jesus, we see how he healed and forgave many people of their sins. Even us, we are to forgive and follow the very steps of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The fact that we are under so great obligation to Christ, places us under the most sacred obligation to those whom he died to redeem. We are to manifest toward them the same sympathy, the same tender compassion and unselfish love, which Christ has manifested toward us. Selfish ambition, desire for supremacy, will die when Christ takes possession of the affections.
“Our Saviour taught His disciples’ to pray: ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’ A great blessing is here asked upon condition. We ourselves state these conditions. We ask that the mercy of God toward us may be measured by the mercy we extend to others. Jesus declares that this is the rule by which the Lord will deal with us: If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will forgive you: but if you forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses… We are dependent upon the pardoning mercy of God everyday and every hour; how then can we cherish bitterness and malice toward our fellow sinner! If in all their daily intercourse, Christians would be wrought in the church and in the world!” (5T 170)
Jesus alone cleanses from sin; He only can forgive our transgressions. He has pledged Himself to listen to the petition and grant the prayer of those who come to Him in faith. Many have a vague idea that they must make some wonderful effort in order to gain the favour of God. But all self dependence is in vain. It is only by connecting with Jesus through faith that we as sinners become hopeful, believing children. It is the same Jesus who forgave Mary who was looked upon as a great sinner. But Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demon that controlled her heart and mind. She knew how offensive is sin to His unsullied purity, and in His strength she had to overcome.
We have also been called, only to accept that we are sinners. He is faithful to forgive us, as He forgave the woman who was brought to Him by the Pharisees and scribes accusing her of violating the Sixth commandment. “The woman had stood before Jesus, cowering with fear, His words, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,’ had come to her as a death sentence. She dared not lift her eyes to the Saviour’s face, but silently awaited her doom. In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, ‘neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.’ Her heart was melted and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins.
“This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting… In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness.” (DA 462)
The same applies to us, for as He healed the physical malady and spiritual malady, He calls us to come to Him for forgiveness, for He shed His precious blood at Calvary for us. He is ready to forgive us, for our sins made His heart to break, for the heaviness of the sins, from the foundation of the earth to the end. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, filled the soul of His son. In all His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father’s mercy and pardoning love.
He wants us to start a new life like the ones He healed and forgave of their sins. For even unto His death He forgave. He does not lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. He pities the weakness of the sinner and reaches to us a helping hand. Men hate the sinner, while they love the sin. Christ hates the sin, but loves the sinner. This will be the spirit of all who follow Him. Christian love is slow to censure, quick to discern penitence, ready to forgive, to encourage to set the wanderer in the path of Holiness, and to stay his feet therein.
“The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. It means divine illumination, rejoicing in God. It means a heart emptied of self, and blessed with the abiding presence of Christ. When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fullness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life. The acceptance of the Saviour brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance. The beauty and fragrance of the character of Christ revealed in the life testifies that God has indeed sent His son into the world to be its Saviour.” (COL 420)
“The souls that turn to him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No evil man or angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine nature. They stand beside the great sin bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:33, 34. DA 568).
Naom K. Riang’a, Nairobi, Kenya