Today I would like us to look deeper at the question: what is forgiveness? What does it look like? We have heard from Jesus that it is essential. It is not icing on the cake of Christianity. If we don't experience it and offer it to others, we will perish in our sin. So it is tremendously important to know what this is that is so essential to our eternal life.
Let me begin with a definition of forgiveness that we owe to each other. It comes from Thomas Watson about 300 years ago. He is commenting on the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we for give our debtors," and asks,
Question: When do we forgive others?
Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)
I think this is a very biblical definition of forgiveness. Each of its parts comes from a passage of Scripture.
Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."
Don't seek to do them mischief:
1 Thessalonians 5:15, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you."
Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles."
Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him."
Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means:
not returning evil for evil,
wishing them well,
grieving at their calamities,
praying for their welfare,
seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
and coming to their aid in distress.
All these point to a forgiving heart. And the heart is all important Jesus said in Matthew 18:35—"unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
May God bless us in our efforts to reconcile with those who have wronged us.
- Bro. Dave