Satan, the great deceiver, came bearing gifts. What he offered Adam and Eve when he tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit seemed attractive enough. Tragically – and too late, what they discovered he had left behind led to incredible pain and suffering. They sinned and their sin brought guilt, shame, condemnation, broken relationships and the curses God assigned to a fallen world.
Even secular folk tales echo this story. Remember how the wicked queen offered Snow White a lovely apple? The fruit was beautifully red, perfectly formed offering a juicy delight. What Snow White digested when she bit into the apple was the sleep of death, only to be reversed by a kiss from her beloved prince.
So, what does Scripture teach when we enroll in God’s class, FORGIVENESS 101?
Forgiveness is at the heart of the cross. It enables a loving God to forgive our sins. To do this and still maintain his righteousness God Himself pays for the consequences of our sin. And we pass on God’s love by extending to others forgiveness when this is necessary. We exhibit confidence in God’s provision for our loving act when we acknowledge that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to pay for the consequences of the sin in question. Ephesians 1:7
Sin must be forgiven. In the New Covenant, we receive God’s forgiveness when we acknowledge and accept God’s provision through faith in Jesus’ death…His shed blood. Our sinful nature is cut off from God until we invite God to breathe life into our “deadness” and restore the relationship we so long for. As Christ-following, Spirit-indwelt, God-honoring believers, we extend forgiveness to those who sin against us because, in part, we are grateful that this is what God has done for us. 1 John 1:8-10
Forgiveness deals with issues of relationship. It is grace-filled, but it does not necessarily remove consequences. Although we are instructed to forgive an infinite number of times (70 times 7) we are not to cooperate with guilty ones in their wrong doing, nor even to approve of what they do. Forgiveness does not equal approval. Forgiveness may not lead to forgetting. Wise, godly action toward the one we forgive may lead to separation, discipline, restitution, but always the goal is restoration. That’s probably where the ‘70 times 7’ comes in. We may conclude from Scripture that God puts no limit on His willingness to forgive us when He sees that His purposes of restoration and healing are still possible. Eph.4:32; Matt.18:21, 22
Every time we forgive others, we get out of the way of God’s continuing to work in their lives. Could it be that as followers of Jesus, we forgive those who wrong us so that we don’t stand in the way of God’s redemptive (albeit sometimes painful) restorative, character-building work? And, by the deliberate (and often difficult) decision to forgive someone, we avoid the bitterness that comes from being an unforgiving person. Perhaps forgiveness shows the measure of our faith that God is able to do in another person what we have not been able to accomplish by our relationship with them. Matt.7:1-5
More on this topic next time. Please know you’re welcome to share what you have learned in God’s school of forgiveness.