Monday, February 15, 2016

How Many Times Should We Forgive Our Offender?

Jesus' teachings are not easy to follow. They aren't meant to be. Some people in the world consider Jesus to have been a great teacher along the same level as Gandhi. They are not willing to see him as the Saviour of the world or the Son of God but they think we should follow his teachings. The problem is that his teaching are impossible to apply unless one is possessed by the Holy Spirit.

Let's pick one simple teaching:

"Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, 'I am changing my ways,' you must forgive that person." (Luke 17:4)

This sounds great until you are in the position of having to apply it. In our human nature we do not want someone to take advantage of us. We do not want to be seen as gullible. "Once bitten, twice shy." "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me." The world offers a small amount of forgiveness but for one time only. After that our sense of justice demands action and consequences. We mark the person as a liar, untrustworthy, a villain, hater. It doesn't work that way with Jesus, and praise the Lord it doesn't.

Could you imagine if Jesus demanded perfection after one offence? Could you imagine if after one forgiveness we would have to face the wrath of God for every subsequent wrong doing? I am very thankful that Jesus only taught what is already his character. But he demands the same quality of love from any who would follow him.

He gave us several teachings and even warnings about the depth of forgiveness. He told us that we better be careful how we judge people because we will be judged by the same measure that we use to judge. Sounds like a threat but it should be seen more as a warning sign that our love is not the quality that should be provoked by his love for us. At the end of Luke 7 we find Jesus teaching that the person who understands how much they have been forgiven will respond with great love, but the person who doesn't understand just how filthy they look to God will not be provoked to love in the same depth. When we realize all the things for which we were forgiven, we will find it easy to apply the teaching of forgiveness to those who offend us.

It is only by the Spirit that we are able to see with the eyes of Jesus. It is only by the Spirit that we are given such great understanding of the principles of the Kingdom. Only by the Spirit are we able to pray and live "on earth as it is in heaven". It is only by the Spirit that we have the power to forgive from such richness of well being. Oh Lord let your Kingdom reign in me! Only the Spirit produces in us the spiritual fruit, such as love and forgiveness. To anyone else it just sounds like foolishness.

We can't afford to keep Jesus at a distance as we would teachers like Gandhi. The only way it works is when we dive in, taking on this relationship in Jesus, to be one with him, dying to ourselves so that we can grow to be just like the One who loved us enough to die on the Cross, then rise from the dead, to ascend to the Father and send to us the Spirit.

He told us to love each other as he loved us, so forgiveness should be a given


No comments: