In the war inspired by our adversary, overcoming offenses and the pursuit of forgiveness provide powerful tools for the fight. Jesus had much to say about forgiveness. Matthew 18 may be one of the most powerful chapters in the God Story. It speaks of a battleground where bondage and freedom will inevitably collide. Within the words of Jesus we find tremendous truth and hope for this fight.
Jesus first speaks about children and then sheep. From there He moves into a conversation about when we are hurt by someone else. His prescription is quite clear: 1) Go to your brother in private. 2) If he or she does not listen, take one or two more witnesses. This is more than finding someone who agrees with your disdain for another. It is a person or more (preferably three) who have witnessed the particular offense independently. Reconciliation is prayed for and pursued simultaneously for both the offended and the offender.
One backdrop for Matthew 18 is found in God’s Law (ten commandments). A false witness makes an accusation before God which is not true. This often then includes telling or assembling a lie(s) which results in slander of another. Proverbs provides a clear thread to help identify a false witness (Proverbs 6:19, 12:17, 14:5, 19:5,9, 21:28, 25:18).
The author to the Hebrews adds to this conversation. If we do not pursue forgiveness, we fall prey to roots of bitterness. And the unforgiving bear the brunt of this, resulting in a defiling of others.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” – Hebrews 12:15
Jesus is quite clear in the remainder of Matthew 18. The lengths we are to go to forgive is astounding. Up to 7 times 70. This is to occur whether there is recognition and reconciliation of both parties or not. Peter probably couldn’t believe his ears. Jesus then goes on to tell a forgiveness parable to drive home His point.
This pretty much sums up the root of the teaching of Matthew 18:
“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” – Luke 7:47 The goal is to love much. This only happens within grateful, forgiven, and forgiving people.
The teaching? Forgiveness is God’s gold standard. It is a powerful tool for beating back the adversary. If we do not forgive we live in bondage. If we do forgive we follow the example of Jesus Who said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Let’s choose freedom over bondage. Forgiveness is the heart-fight of our lives. Perhaps this is why Jesus said “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:44-45
Check this out:
“There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: √ Haughty eyes, √ a lying tongue, √ hands that shed innocent blood, √ a heart that devises wicked plans, √ feet that run rapidly to evil, √ a false witness who utters lies, and √ one who spreads strife among brothers.” – Proverbs 6:16-19
PRINCIPLES FOR THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
√ A gentle answer turns away wrath. Proverbs 15:1; 2 Kings 6:15-23
√ Heaping embers. Proverbs 25:21,22
√ You have heard that it was said… Matthew 5:38-48
√ Turn the other cheek. Luke 6:27-36
√ God’s Gold Standard. Matthew 18:18-35
I know that some of you have been betrayed and hurt deeply. We have as well. I know there are people who may not seem to deserve to be forgiven for their part in harming or robbing your soul. There is a deep part of us who would love to see pay back for those who have harmed us.
But what about me? Do I want to see the same Just Hand come upon me in my hour of exposure, or am I grateful that God’s covering of grace will spread across my soul on the Day of His coming?
Make a list in your mind of the true offenses of your life which seem to be anchored into your soul. When you have been neglected. Cheated. Humiliated. Ignored. Unloved.
Take these and approach Jesus’ cross. Hand them to the Roman soldier who is nailing Jesus’ name “King of the Jews” above His head. Watch as both lists are nailed to the Cross and taken out of the way. Removed as far as the east is from the west.
Now I know your mind can see it. And I know your heart can feel it. And I know your emotions can hold it.
But perhaps the weightiest list that has been taken out of the way is not that of our tormentors. Could it be that the list etched most deeply into our souls is the one which flows out of our own heart. Where forgiveness is the true power to make us free?!
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Colossians 2:13-15
Like Job in the bible, our story isn’t about fairness, getting even, or being right. It is about being free. This is why He said to the humiliated and adulterous woman: “your sins are forgiven – go in peace!”
Check out the 4th chapter of Jonah as well and consider forgiveness and compassion. Pretty cool.
Forgiveness belongs as a deep part of our armor for the battle. When wielded in the Spirit it is unstoppable. It is powerful.
Dave and Burnadette