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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, December 14 2023

Forgiving my brother

Jesus Christ exhorts us: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).

by Derrick Dominiguez

The command to forgive is often most difficult because sometimes we don’t want to. We want justice and to retaliate. If we forgive, won’t we just be allowing people to take advantage of us, and allowing them to get away with a wrong? Even the apostles were stunned that their duty was to forgive their brother seven times a day. Their reaction is in verse 5: “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’”

Christ further illustrates this teaching in the Lord’s prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12-15).

In Luke 11:4 sin is represented as debts, and the plural form indicates it has amassed or piled up. The only way to have these debts absolved is to forgive others. If we show mercy, we receive mercy from God. We cannot ask God to forgive our debts and sins if we are not also forgiving.

What should we do if our brother repeats an offense seven times? Proverbs 19:11 states, “...it is his [our] glory to pass over a transgression.” Address it, resolve it if possible, forgive it and move on. Vengeance is God’s alone (Romans 12:19). Human nature and pride are the antithesis of forgiveness. Pride opposes and resists our need to forgive. It demands justice and wants to get even. In injuring you, others have committed an offense against man, but in not forgiving them, we commit an offense against God.

When we forgive, we reflect the Father’s love. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to extend to others what God has extended to us, and our purpose in life is to develop God’s character. Human nature is vindictive. You can see this desire for revenge, retaliation and mudslinging in our entertainment, and also in society, in business and in politics. But in spite of all this evil, confusion and hatred, we are told to forgive, as often as we have opportunity.

All of us sin and therefore need forgiveness, and just abstaining from “getting even” doesn’t cut it. Bitterness and resentment can occur, even if you do not retaliate, because without forgiveness we will never get rid of our inner turmoil. The anger and pain are never gone.

Christ used a very sobering parable about a king and his servant to illustrate the concept of forgiveness.The servant owed the king ten thousand talents, which was a massive amount of money. “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made” (Matthew 18:25). The servant begged for forgiveness, and the master forgave him his debt.

Soon after the same servant came across a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt and could not repay it. He also begged for forgiveness, but the servant who had just been forgiven refused and had the man jailed. When the king heard of this, he was very angry that his servant had not also been forgiving and sent the man away to be punished until he could repay (verses 32-34).

The first servant owed the king a fortune, 10,000 talents. The second servant owed a measly 100 denarii. It was an enormous difference, but the amount owed does not really matter. The point is nothing men can do to us in any way can compare with what we have done to God.

Author C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Forgiving is a major part of loving others. When Jesus gave us the outline of the Lord’s Prayer, it was a part of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), which also teaches the necessity to love everyone.

We also see the forgiveness of Christ in the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:3-4).The religious leaders had caught a woman in the very act of adultery. They brought her to Jesus, reminding Him that the law stated she deserved to die. Jesus told them that whoever was innocent among them should throw the first stone, and they all slunk away, condemned by their own consciences. Part of what Christ was teaching the Apostles and us was: We are not the judge. Our Father will decide who’s forgiven and who is not.

Forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving someone, we are trusting God is better at justice than we ever could be. God does everything out of love, not spite. When forgiving, we give up our desire to get even and leave all of the issues of fairness for God to work out, who decides the balance between justice and mercy.