From Pastor Mark
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15
One of the attributes of genuine Christianity is forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. Why did Jesus live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died. Was it not to offer us forgiveness? Jesus experienced our punishment for sin (God’s wrath) and he experienced our penalty for sin (death). That’s why Paul declares that through faith in Jesus, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
It’s only when you have a deep sense of your forgiveness in Christ that you will be able to turn around and forgive others. That’s Jesus’ point in Matthew 18. Before he calls believers to forgive each other, he reminds us of God’s call for us to be holy and humble (Matthew 18:1-14). And after he calls believers to forgive each other, he tells us that forgiveness doesn’t have limits (Matthew 18:21-35).
Jesus’ calls us to be a part of his kingdom. And that means following our King in offering forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. Because let’s be honest here. Forgiving someone who cuts me off on the highway is fairly easy. It might be incredibly annoying, but I get it. The guy may be having a bad day or he may not have even seen me. It’s not that big a deal.
But to forgive a church member who has said nasty things about me or who has treated my wife poorly. That’s when forgiveness becomes real and costly. That’s when my forgiveness begins to reflect the forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus didn’t die to forgive his friends, he died to forgive his enemies (Rom 5:8). And he did it so that when you, his enemy, embrace him as Savior and King, he then gives you a new heart. That new heart comes with redeemed desires, mindsets, and motivations.
What this new heart does for believers is it allows us to see others the way Christ sees them. Not just as obnoxious and rude. But, as brothers and sisters who are wrestling against darkness just like us (Ephesians 6:12). The more I understand the gospel truth that I am more wicked than I ever imagined, the more I can sympathize with others who have done wicked things against me. Because I am no different and no better. But I also have to understand the gospel truth that in Christ I am more loved and accepted than I ever imagined. This frees me to absorb the debt of that sin creates between two people.
Listen, the only way you can forgive someone who has sinned against you is when you are convinced that your far greater sin against God has been forgiven (Matthew 18:32-33). None of it deserved, it’s all grace. God forgives us out of grace—unmerited and unconditional. And he gives us his Spirit to forgive out of grace—unmerited and unconditional. This is what it means to be a Christian.
Christians forgive because they are forgiven. Yes it’s painful and costly. Forgiveness always is. Just look at the cross. But, if you are struggling to forgive, I encourage you to do just that—look to the cross of Christ. See what he has done for you. Think about his love for you. And let that melt your heart. By grace, you will find that you can forgive your father or mother for what they have done. You can forgive your in-law. You can forgive your spouse. You can forgive your roommate, your child, your fellow church member, yourself.