Forgive and Live

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

After writing recently about forgiveness, I received a lot of responses.  One person said that when he learned to forgive, it was a key that unlocked a future for his Christian growth.  Another person said it was the most important thing he had learned.  Forgiving opens a door for a new relationship with God and with people.

A couple of people raised the question, why should I forgive?  Let me offer 7 reasons – 

1.      We must forgive because the Bible teaches it.  Matthew 6:14 says that if we forgive other people, God will forgive us.  If we fail to forgive others, God does not forgive us.  Wow, that’s dangerous.  We seek God’s forgiveness, but it becomes real when we forgive others.  Someone has said that forgiveness is the fragrance a violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

2.      We forgive because unforgiveness is a sin.  We don’t like to think of it in those terms.  We would much rather identify sins with sexual infidelity, murder, stealing, lying, etc.  1 John 3:15 equates unforgiveness with murder.  Putting a nice dress on unforgiveness doesn’t change its nature.

3.      We forgive because revenge will never even the score.  It differs from the world.  While the world might say we treat “an eye for an eye,” the Christian approach is “an eye for forgiveness.”  If we live by “an eye for an eye,” then the world would be blind! (Tweet this)

4.      We forgive because forgiveness is an expression of strength and Christian character.  The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche really confused people about forgiveness because he described it as “forgiveness is for weaklings.”  He felt that forgiveness was bowing down to the feet of those more powerful than you were.  That is a gross misunderstanding.  It takes extraordinary courage and strength to forgive.  

5.      We must forgive because unforgiveness is hazardous to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.  Unforgiveness creates anger and resentment.  It brings a huge sense of guilt.  Studies are showing that physical pain is directly related to unforgiveness.  Studies also show that heart rate, blood pressure, and other factors react negatively to unforgiveness.  Physical pain can be the result of unforgiveness.  It can create emotional insulation and a selfish attitude.

6.      We forgive because it drastically changes the future.  Forgiveness does not change the past, but it drastically changes the future!  Forgiving helps us to move on and no longer be held captive by the shackles of the past.

7.      Some people confuse forgiveness with forgetting.  I read a Sunday School lesson in which David Housel pointed out that the idea of “forgive and forget” came from Shakespeare and not the Bible.  He reminds us that we are made to forgive, but we were not made to forget.  God has the capacity to totally forget.  Read Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:15.   Forgiveness changes the whole necessity of forgetting. 

In the 1990’s, one of the great movements in our country was Promise Keepers.  My life and many of my friends were impacted by that ministry founded by Coach Bill McCartney.  The movement centered on receiving the forgiveness of God and the willingness to forgive others.  Coach McCartney developed a powerful formula that he used at all the PK conferences to help people know something special about God, themselves, and God’s purpose for their lives.  His formula was “forgive + give = live.” 

It’s time to FORGIVE and LIVE!

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