by Stephen F. OlfordThe Function of Forgiveness
Text: "`Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?'" (Matt. 18:21 nkjv).
Thought: The answer to this question is crucial, if we would know freedom from the bondage of unforgivingness in our daily lives. Knowing this, Jesus took time to teach Peter-and us-the function of forgiveness.
1. The function of forgiveness must be timeless: "Then Peter came to Him and said, `Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said, `Notůseven times, but up to seventy times seven'" (vv. 21,22). A Christian should never tire of forgiving his brother. God teach us what this means so that we will be more ready to forgive those who sin against us!
2. The function of forgiveness must be tenderhearted: "From [your] heartůforgive" (v. 35). It is useless to say words of forgiveness unless we really mean them. To forgive must involve a personal Calvary. When God forgives He speaks and acts from a broken heart. It was while hanging on the cross that Jesus prayed for His enemies: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
3. The function of forgiveness must be thankful: Read vv. 23-35 again. Here was a servant who owed his king a huge sum of money, but when he begged, "Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all," the king forgave him the debt (vv. 26,27). How thankful he should have been! Instead, he met a fellow servant who owed him a mere pittance, and seizing him by the throat demanded, "Pay me what you owe!" (v. 28). The result was inevitable and just. We cannot but agree with the king's severe treatment of the wicked servant. The lesson is clear: You and I can never repay God for forgiving our debt; so the least we can do is to thankfully forgive everybody when the occasion demands it. Not to do so is to call down God's just and righteous displeasure. Remember those words in Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you."
Tenderhearted and forgiving, God in Christ has been to me;
So must I with one another, tender and forgiving be. S.F.O.