The Forgiveness Equation

Forgiveness is one of the greatest, yet misunderstood, words in our language. There is not a single person who has not found ourselves on both sides of the Forgiveness Equation. Think about it right now: To whom do you need to offer forgiveness? From whom do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Remember that at the very heart of the Gospel is a message of forgiveness. The Apostle Paul wrote the summary fact of the Christian faith in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In other words, the proof of love is demonstrated through forgiveness. Let me remind you of one of the post powerful statements Jesus made regarding forgiveness. The disciples of Jesus we listening to him talk about some immediate issues in the community of faith regarding sin, forgiveness and reconciliation when Peter asked Jesus

Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?
Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
—Matthew 18:21-22

It is important to note that this was in stark contrast of the teachings of Jesus day. The religious crowd has been teaching that all that was required was forgiveness 3 times. In other words, they had a three strike policy even back then, but Jesus was not taking about limited forgiveness, He was saying that our forgiveness to wayward and offending individuals must be limitless.

Peter, like all of us, must have found this requirement a difficult and seemingly impossible one, but it was, nonetheless, what Jesus instructed.

How about us today? Are we really expected to just keep on forgiving those who have wronged us? Are we to be some sort of volleyball for all the people around us? Let me see if I can bring some perspective to this issue.

Forgiveness does not mean that we let the offenders off the hook for their bad behavior any more than we are to apply this to our sins. It does not mean that we do not hold people accountable for their actions, and it certainly does not imply that we are to be a physical or emotional punching bag.

Forgiveness DOES mean that we are willingly and deliberately putting aside all bitterness and resentment by choosing to release any and all malice toward anyone by surrendering it all to God and being willing to pray for that offending person. The truth is that our refusal to forgive those who have hurt or insulted us continues to give them permission to do it again. Un-forgiveness actually makes you a slave to those who have offended you!

John wrote in his first letter, what I think are the keys to forgiveness.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie
and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself
is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:6-9


Forgiveness is a Choice — The key word in this equation is “IF” and it’s a big if!  It is completely your choice to offer forgiveness. Not on can make you, but God does command you.  For the children of God, forgiveness is not an opportunity, it is an obligation. “Be kind to once another … forgiving each other, just as God also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) We make a choice to forgive others and ourselves!

Forgiveness is a Confession“If we confess …” which really means to say the same thing about.  This is not about repentance it is about realization.  We cannot pass our bad behavior off as anything less than it is.  Too often we excuse our sins as something less than they really are.  As you examine your life if you really want to move forward in forgiveness, it is imperative that you are completely honest with yourself and God. We must call unkindness, anger, lust, hate, bragging, etc. exactly what they are.

Forgiveness is a Cleansing“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all …”  There is no other thing in the world that liberates and cleanses us like forgiveness.  Far too often we simple try and wipe around the issue, but what it really needs is cleansing.

Some of you are old enough to remember when we used chalkboards and actual chalk in our class rooms.  Do you remember what it looked like when we erased the board with the erasers? You could read the new writing but there was always a dustiness and fuzziness to the board.  But every so often one of us was given the duty and washing the board down with a wet cloth and what a difference that clean board made.

I’m convinced that what we need to offer others and receive in ourselves is a washing with the wet cloth of God’s grace and forgiveness, which is the blood of Jesus.   It’s free and its available as we have the love of God applied to our life through forgiveness.

Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?
Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
—Matthew 18:21-22