Forgive us as we forgive those

 

 

Forgive Us

I remember a time when I would recite the Lord’s Prayer right after the national anthem each and everyday in school.  It was in grade four when this all stopped because of some court decision that said saying the Prayer in school was wrong.  Then, I was not a Christian and even though I hadn’t found God, I thought it odd that they stopped this great little verse of poetry.  Now, I am a Christian and sorely miss the value of this prayer and its lesson that it can teach in school.

There is one key point that I am going to focus on in this post.  It is “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us“.  This is a very important part of the prayer.  It is also a very important part of Christianity.  If it was not for forgiveness, there would be no salvation.  I have done several posts on this topic: Comments abound, Think Atheist-right and yet wrong, and Forgiveness a key cornerstone.  And this post will continue in the theme of forgiveness.

The hardest thing we can do is forgive someone who has wronged us.  It is so easy to get angry and lash out at the world for the wrongs that violate our selves each and every single day.  Take a look at road rage.  Virtually all incidents of road rage are caused by trivial and insignificant events.  Yet these events can spark some violent outbursts from those that are involved.  How many of us have sworn or given the finger to anyone who has trespassed into our space?  How many of us feel justified in taking part in acts of rage?  This very action, that we as a society seem to be embracing more and more, is an act of sin.

Bible Verses on Forgiveness

“…forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)

“…and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)

“…and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35)

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

The last one is very powerful: if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven by God!  So our little acts of road rage is in defiance of our duty to forgive everyone and everything.  If Christ forgave us of our sins, we MUST forgive the sins of others that are against us.  Otherwise we risk losing the very forgiveness that eases our souls.

Key to Salvation

Forgiveness is key to our initial salvation.  Without the salvation from Christ through our repentance of our sins, we can never expect to be saved from damnation to Hell.  Forgiveness is amazing in that it is the source of salvation from sin and the punishment (in the eternal sense) of Hellfire.  All sin is bad.  All sin is equal.  There is no big sin and there is no little sin.  Sin is sin.

But when we seek forgiveness and receive salvation, we are saved.  This is never revoked, this saving of our souls.  Even if we continue to lead sinning lives and refuse to forgive others.  Once we become God’s, we are God’s forever.  Nothing can and nothing will ever change that.

Bible Verses on Redemption

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.  I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

“Nothing that belongs to the Lord can be sold or bought back.  It remains the Lord’s.” (Leviticus 27:28 paraphrased)

 

Once God claims ownership of anything, including  a person’s soul, it is His forever.  He will not dispose of it or give it away.  Salvation can never be revoked.  This is a great thing as we are assured that we will never be lost to sin again.

Repentance

Sin is a horrible thing.  All sin separates us from God.  If you only commit one sin in your life, you are now separated from God.  That is where Christ comes and fixes this problem.  If we are truly repentant of our sins and we seek forgiveness, Christ bridges the gap between us and God.  We are saved from sin and the result that sin brings, that being the salvation from eternal damnation.

Now that we are repentant and are saved, we can be assured that we are spared condemnation.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Belief Saves Us

We are saved by God’s grace and by God’s grace alone.  Nothing we can do, nothing we have done, can make us earn salvation.  On the flip side, nothing can be done to lose our salvation once we become God’s.  We are to believe that God provides the means and that is what saves us; belief in God.  The is a great quote from Earl Radmacher that says:

Many wise pastors have insisted that the basis for knowing that I am a Christian is not what I do but what God’s Word says about what Christ has done and continues to do for those who have believed (John 1:12; 1 John 5:13). I know I belong to Christ because I have believed in Jesus Christ as my only Savior and Redeemer from eternal destruction. It’s not the evidences of my life that are my basis for knowing that. It’s the Word of God. God said it. That settles it. I am fearful of those today, who because of a genuine, valid concern about the lack of growth and the lack of evident Christian lifestyle, are willing to try to prop up the Gospel by adding to it.

 So whatever we do, or do not do, our salvation is forever.  Nothing will ever make us part of the lost again.

Saved from Damnation, but NOT Consequence

The Bible tells us that we are saved through the belief that Jesus is the only means of being saved.  The Bible also tells us that we are forgiven if we are repentant (truly sorry and remorseful for our sins).  Because of repentance, forgiveness and salvation, we are saved from being eternally separated from God for eternity in Hell; we have a room waiting for us in the big hotel in the sky.

Freedom from Condemnation, not from Responsibility

Condemnation is being damned to an eternity in Hell and being forever separated from God. Being free of condemnation does not mean we are free from consequence. All sin has some level of consequence to the sinner and/or to those around the sinner. Suppose I rob a bank of millions of dollars. I get home, count the money and begin to realize that what I done was wrong. I beg God forgiveness and because I am truly repentant of my crime, I am forgiven of my misdeed. But does that mean I get to keep the money? Certainly not. As an act of repentance, I have to return every cent of what I took and face the consequences of this act of mine. I most likely will face prison time for this. Even though I have been forgiven, I still have to face the consequence of my faults.

The Old Testament is full of examples of laws, crimes and their consequences.

“…life for life, eye of an eye, tooth for a tooth…” (Deuteronomy 19:21)

There are times where it is taken literally, like in the case of murder. But one cannot expect that a tooth is to be pulled for every tooth knocked out in a fight. This is where the more figurative interpretation takes place. It simple means that the punishment must fit the crime. Other Old Testament laws even go as far to describe exactly what is to be done. If I take the bank robbery example of the above, I am required to pay back seven times what I took. This could mean literally seven times of the millions. Or the more figurative where “seven” represents whole or complete. So I would have to pay back wholly or completely the money back. Many more examples in the Bible of the crime and the punishment that is suitable for the criminal. There is not one example of an instance where someone can get away with a criminal act.

Christ saves us from the eternal result of sin in the form of salvation from damnation/condemnation to Hell. Nowhere in the Bible is it found or expected that forgiveness means freedom from consequence of our sins. Part of repentance is owning up to the sins/crimes/misdeeds/evils that we have committed. We acknowledge the wrongs that we did and take responsibility for those wrongs.

Saved, but Still Punished

The Bible also places some very serious expectations on Christians; serious and very powerful expectations.  Because we are saved, we do not get a free pass to sin willy-nilly all we want.  Yes, we are saved from damnation, but we are not saved from God’s Judgment and wrath.  In Matthew 18:32, listed above, a servant pleads with the master to be relieved of a debt.  The master shows pity and forgives the debt of the servant.  At this point, the servant finds another who owes him a debt and forces it from him.  This is a great parable of Jesus.  The master forgives the servant, but the servant refuses to forgive another.  What happens now?  The master sends the servant to jail.

God is the master in this parable.  You, me, that guy over there, is the servant.  God forgives us and we are to forgive others.  Failure to do so means we will not be forgiven.  This is powerful and scary.  How many of us love road rage?  How many of us enjoy it and feel vindicated by it?  Because of this failure to forgive someone’s mistake, we risk losing the forgiveness that we sought from God.  It mean we will be punished for our sins.

Saved from damnation/condemnation to Hell.  But still punished.

Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14 starts a parable of God’s expectations on us, as Christians.  This parable has a master giving several servants money (talents).  There are examples of a very profitable servant, and servants that did not rake in the dough like some others.  Then there is the servant that did nothing.  The master was happy with all of the servants efforts, even with those that did not turn a profit as high as others.  But the master was outraged by the servant that did nothing with the money.  The master rebukes and casts him aside and does not allow him to share in the riches that the master has.

This is a great lesson in what we are to do and what is expected of us Christians.  We are to use all of talents, skills and money to do the work of the Lord.  Because we try, we can share in the master’s happiness.  But if we do not do anything, we are rebuked and do not share in the happiness of the master (God).  This one parable can be used to demonstrate that God rewards and punishes his saved people.  Rewards are showered on the good works of good servants.  Punishment is given to those that do nothing, or even do bad.

As Christians, we are spared damnation, but not punishment.

Christians’ Works Judged

“If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

Another example of God passing judgement on his Christians.  This verse uses fire as a means to represent judging.  Fire is great in getting rid of stuff that is worthless.  When it comes to metals like gold and silver, fire makes it more pure.  Fire enriches the metal’s worth and usefulness.  Whereas straw is completely destroyed by fire; nothing of value remains after it is burned.  So whatever we Christians build (through our works of good, or our acts of sins) will be judged before God.  If what our life is right before God, we will be rewarded.  If what we have done with our life is bad, we will not be rewarded.  The verse concludes saying that the person who has done bad works will still be saved, but he would still have to go through the fire of God’s judgment. 

This passage is another example that forgiveness saves but does not mean we are not responsible for our actions.

Christian Duty to Forgive

Christ forgave us and it is our duty to forgive others.  Matthew 6:14 shows just how important it is that we forgive everyone who crosses our lives.  If we fail to forgive anyone, we will lose forgiveness to ourselves.

As a human being, I like holding grudges and being hateful and spiteful.  There is an odd form of pleasure in it; feelings of justification, vindication and longings for revenge.  But this is not a Christian thing to do.  No matter what happens, we are to forgive everyone and everything that has ever happened to us.  We expect this from God that He forgives all of our sins.  It is only natural that God expects us to do the same in forgiving others in return.  Still, this is a very hard thing to do, and many will not like forgiving someone who has wronged them so very much.

Failing to forgive means we face the punishment by God.

Jenny

There was someone who posted a comment on my website.  Her story is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  She was brutally attacked by an evil monster.  Anyone who is a victim of violence has every right to feel angry and demand justice.  Emotions of hatred and vengeance is so very human in this situation.  Yet Jenny wishes for the salvation of her attacker.  How many of us Christians can do this?  How many of us forgive attempted murder, yet alone the smaller things like someone cutting you off in traffic?

This is what Christ demands of us; the act of forgiving everyone in our lives.  The rapist that Jenny faced will be forgiven by God if he is repentant.  God will wipe away the condemnation of Hell that this sin will have caused and will allow him a spot in Heaven.  But like the verses above, he is going to have to respond to God about why he did the crime.  Salvation is saving the soul from eternal damnation.  Salvation is NOT a free ticket to rape, pillage and murder.  There will be some accounting for his, and yours, actions in life.

Judgment Day

The Bible does hit on the subject of Judgment Day.  It does describe this day as the final act of judgement of God on individual persons.  If we are saved, Christ will act as our lawyer, sparing us from Hell.  Other than that, what is the form of punishment that sinning Christians will receive?

I do not know.

The Bible does refer to “rewards in Heaven” as alluded to in several parables (like the parable of the talents).  But it does not describe what those rewards will be.  Is there a sort of hierarchy where really good Christians are at top, and those that did evil with their salvation are at the bottom?  Is there some sort of better living standards where I would have a bigger home than others? 

I do not know.

What I do know is that I will be judged for my actions.  All sin is equal.  All sin, whether we consider them big like murder, or small like flipping the bird to a stranger, separates us from God.  It is only with Christ’s help can we expect to be spared damnation.  Freedom from Hell, but not freedom from consequence.

What will that consequence be?  Only God knows.  And we will find out soon enough when it is our turn to be judged.  As for me, I am a little worried.  I am a Christian and I am not very good at being one.  I know I am saved because the Bible tells me so.  And I know I must account for the sins that I engage in.  The simplest thing for me to do is repent and stop sinning my sins.  But I like my sins.  They keep me busy and it is so much easier than doing the right thing.  Add the fact that I have no intention of stopping, I being to wonder what is in store for me.  No Hellfire, but no reward either.

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