One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive someone who wrongs us, and the higher the level of wrongdoing, the more difficult, if not impossible forgiveness becomes. Yet, God demands we forgive others. Here’s why…
From the writings of the late Reverend Billy Graham comes one of the best explanations of why forgiveness is important and how forgiveness works using a modern-day analogy which describes the life of Jesus Christ.
Graham writes: “Imagine for a minute that you committed a crime, were arrested, and were sent to jail. The day has now come for you to appear in court. As you stand before the judge, there’s absolutely no doubt: you are guilty of the charges against you. According to the law, you must pay for this crime and the verdict is read and sentence pronounced. At once the bailiff comes to lead you away to prison.”
Let’s pause for a minute to put this in a biblical perspective. The crime is “sin.” The accused is “all of us.” “The law” is God’s law righteousness for the entire universe. It is inescapable. The guilty party is all of us and there is no doubt as to our guilt. There is the irrefutable DNA-like record in our souls which God can read from the book of life.
There is not one human being who has ever lived that has not sinned, whether it be by thought or deed.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Graham continues: “But then the unbelievable happens. The judge steps down from the bench, stops the bailiff, and takes your place. He is innocent – but he goes to prison and pays the penalty for the crime you committed. You, on the other hand, are free!”
The judge is Christ.
The Bible tells us that God has appointed Jesus Christ as judge of mankind:
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,”
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
–2 Corinthians 5:10
We’re not talking a 5 to 10 get out with early parole here. “The penalty for the crime” of sin that we have all committed and must pay is death. Eternal death.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But in this example, “the judge,” Christ, took our place and paid the penalty for us so that we will be freed from death.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Now, by the above example, it is abundantly clear how forgiveness is tied to eternal life.
God is holy. We cannot be in his presence unless we are cleansed from our sins. The only way we can be cleansed of our sins is to repent. Part of repentance is forgiving others for any grievances we hold towards them.
Forgiveness begins in the way we see others. It starts with our mental attitude.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
– Colossians 3:8
In other words, forgiveness from God is impossible unless we can forgive others first.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
When our own children do wrong, somehow we find a way to forgive them. God does the same with us. But God says we have to be bigger. Not only do we have to forgive our children, but we have to forgive our brothers, sisters, and everyone around us.
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.'”
– Luke 17:3-4
But it goes further… We have to forgive strangers. And even more difficult – forgiving our enemies. We need to pray for others and pray that our enemies do not perish in sin. If we hate, like they hate, then how are we better or different than them?
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,”
There is a part of our society today that has been dubbed “cancel culture.” Largely, it is an online-driven group that consists of one self-appointed part of society that feels its viewpoints and vocabulary, which establish its own form of political correctness, are the only viable ones. Anyone who does not conform is “canceled.” The pressure is enormous and even corporations are bowing to this group, doing so because they care more about money than about people or what is actually fundamentally correct.
These cancellations can be harsh resulting in firings or being asked to resign, while the canceled person becomes shunned and shut out as a pariah. A lucky few are given the opportunity to “repent” through an apology meets all the criteria in the right manner. But for most, there is no attempt at forgiveness and they are forever condemned.
But this is opposite of the way God sees things. God says we should give everyone the chance to be forgiven. If we withhold this opportunity, then we ourselves are condemned and God will not forgive us.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
– Luke 6:37
Remember, that the wrongdoings put forth by “cancel culture” are not real “sins,” but rather a norm one group is trying to establish. Some of these are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible.