It is a shame so many followers of Jesus do not realize the power they have. Too often we push through life with a victim attitude, expecting that we deserve sympathy, wanting a "ahh, poor is you" from people. We hardly look like the victorious people Jesus declared us to be. One would never know that the resurrection power is pumping through us and that we have the constant attention of the Creator. We take on the role of the offended, the victim of someone else's cruelty and brutality whereas the truth is, we have the power over them.
Yesterday we considered the passage in Matthew 18 that told us how to handle a believer who has sinned against us. We concluded from this that if the person did not make an effort to amend the wrong that we must change our attitude toward them. That did not mean to hold a grudge but instead to realize that they did not have a saving knowledge of Jesus and we must minister to them as we would any other person without Jesus. Some might call this a judgment but it is the direction from Jesus because anyone who does not have a repentant heart when they realize they have wronged someone could not possibly have encountered Jesus.
We see in this passage that the person who was offended did not consider themselves a victim, trying to build up a wave of sympathy from people. Instead the attitude is that we take control of the situation, face the person who has offended us and expect repentance. There is no victim attitude here. The power is actually with you because the offender cannot forgive himself, forgiveness can only come from you. The important thing to note is that he cannot receive forgiveness for something he is not willing to recognize as wrong, so remember we are talking about believer to believer here.
The power rests with the forgiver and it is an awesome power. In this same passage about how to handle offenders, Jesus explains:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)
Allow me to explain it with a further reference from Jesus:
"If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23)
This sounds incredible until you bring in the complete teaching on forgiveness. Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? He had been forgiven much but then he refused to forgive a small amount so he was cast into jail. Jesus also taught that if we forgive we will also be forgiven. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of all Jesus taught and did so if we have really encountered him and made him King over us then forgiveness is also the cornerstone of our life. Forgiveness does not come without a cost to the forgiver. It cost the Father his Son and it cost the Son the cross. It may cost us rejection but it will definitely cost us our pride. It will cost us the "right" of justice or vengeance, which ever way you wish to see it.
When we forgive the offender he will no longer have to give an account for it because Jesus has also forgiven him. If we do not forgive then the offender will have to give an account for it but we in turn will have to give an account for our unforgiveness. This is where you see where the real power rests. As long as you refuse to forgive the offender he has power over you. As a believer you will have to give an account for the unforgiveness and that is the real tragedy. However, in forgiving the offender you place yourself above it, you become the rescuer and you receive the blessing of the Lord that comes with it. The real power rests with the forgiver, even when the offender refuses to acknowledge their offense because even in this you become the rescuer trying to save them from that place of sin.
Let's face it, if we have the relationship with Jesus that we are suppose to have we are able to put those offenses against us in the light of God's love and eternity. The Apostle Paul referred to such things as "small and momentary" in the light of God's glory, and you know what he went through and the offenses committed against him. I am not saying it is easy in comparison to the standards of this world but this is where we as believers must push our flesh down and allow our spirit to rise up. This is the only way that we can walk as Jesus walked and do as Jesus did. Even as they nailed him to the cross he called out for their forgiveness. We have to capture the attitude that another person's salvation is more important than our rights, our need for justice and our desire for revenge. It's not about us; it's about them and Jesus. It's what it is all about, love that produces forgiveness.