Call – Opelika-Auburn News
sometimes restore a broken relationship
In the Dictionary of Quotations only one person is quoted under the word
“forgiveness.” That person is Jesus and the quotation is the entire parable of
the prodigal son found in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
Obviously the authors felt this statement on forgiveness has no equal. And they
While the story of the prodigal is
one of literature’s most compelling stories, Jesus had much more to say about
forgiveness. The necessity of forgiveness was a cardinal teaching of Jesus. His
teaching was penetratingly clear as in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if
you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive
Saint Paul continues this same theme
in his letters to the young churches. Some of the apostle’s most memorable
teachings concern forgiveness. One of his priceless observations for me is
be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving
one another, just as God in Christ forgave
you.” (NKJV) That admonition to forgive has challenged me all my life. Even
when I am slow to forgive, I know I must for the Lord leaves me no other
Paul learned firsthand the need for
a forgiving spirit. Not everyone in the church at Corinth welcomed Paul’s
teaching. One man opposed Paul openly. For his offense he was disciplined by
the church. In this Second Letter Paul encouraged the church to move on by
forgiving the man and restoring him to the fellowship.
Here Paul is practicing what Jesus preached.
His sage words, “reaffirm your love for him,” are worth remembering whenever
we deal with conflict.
When a person has been grievously
offended, forgiveness is never easy. It may become possible if we remember the
grace of God. Paul shows us the crucial role of grace in forgiveness. Grace
makes the impossible possible. God forgives us for our sins. He expects us to
forgive those who sin against us. This we must do or our fellowship with the
Father is broken. We cannot know God or love God and at the same time harbor
resentment toward another person.
What can motivate us to repent of
our resentment or hatred toward another? Paul’s answer is “godly grief.” Godly
grief is grief that involves God. Godly grief makes us aware that we have
sinned against God as well as the person we resent. Remember the cry of David as he repented of his adultery with Bathsheba?
His was “godly” grief:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according
to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my
transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. . . .” (Psalm 51:1-4)
grief can move us to genuine repentance. Paul commends the church for their
repentance; it has brought him great joy. He hammers home the sharp contrast
between godly grief and “worldly grief.” Godly grief “produces a repentance
that leads to salvation” while worldly grief “produces death.” One leads to
peace with God; the other to separation from God.
one point Paul makes a beautiful request of his friends: “Make room in your hearts for us.” Genuine Christianity is a matter of the heart.
Despite our differences and inevitable conflict in the church, we can learn to
open our hearts to one another! We can recognize that our sins grieve God and
we can repent. We can forgive one another and allow grace to restore broken
relationships. When we do this even pagans may testify, “Those Christians
really do love one another!”
has a field day when Christians engage in bitter conflict. He delights to see
us focus on what is wrong with other people. He loves it when we think we are
always right! But when we remember the Cross and repent of our own sins, we
defeat Satan. He wants nothing to do with genuine repentance, forgiveness, and
become stronger when Christians practice forgiveness. Old wounds can be healed
by a forgiving spirit. Broken relationships can be mended by forgiveness. As
the old gospel song puts it, “chords that were broken will vibrate once more,” and
joy will abound in the household of God! Great things can happen when we are
willing to forgive those who have hurt us. + + +