Obviously, this is a command some Christians misunderstand, or it is one of the most difficult things they must do, or else it is one thing they are not willing to do. CHARIDZOMAI is the Greek word for the act of forgiving.
Forgiveness is not arbitrary. It has already been settled in heaven, (Psalm 119:89; Ephesians 4:32). The question is NOT, “Do I want to forgive?” but rather, “Do I want God to forgive me, and do I want to go to heaven?” (Matthew 6:15). Some may say, “But the wrong they did was so terrible.” Probably so, but that is NOT THE question. The question IS, “Did they repent?” If so, you have no choice but to forgive, or else commit sin yourself in your refusal to forgive. In regard to how terrible the sin really is; could it be any greater than being responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion? We are all guilty of that (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). And yet, He is willing to forgive us completely. This should and must provoke our forgiveness in others (Colossians 3:13).
What does it mean to forgive? Since our forgiveness of others is to be like God’s forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32), we need to learn what God’s forgiveness involves. David said when God forgave the iniquity of His people, he covered ALL THEIR SINS (Psalms 85:2). In the mind of God, it was as though the sin had never been committed. In Jeremiah 31:34 God said, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” The same thought is taught in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17. It is easy to see that God’s forgiveness COVERS ALL sins or transgressions, and that He never again remembers them against the one who has been forgiven.
If our forgiveness of others is like God’s then ALL the sins against us will be covered, and we will never again remember them against the one whom we have forgiven. We may not forget, but we must forgive. Really, it is a matter of love. God so completely and freely forgives us because he is love (1 John 4:8). We completely and freely forgive others because we love. Solomon says, “Love covers all sins” (Proverbs 12:10).
(This article was written by Leroy Dedmon, and he brings out some very simple points that we need to consider. I came across this as I am preparing some sermons on forgiveness for Summer Series this year. We know what we ought to do, but sometimes knowing what we ought to do and doing it does not always match up. My prayer is that my knowing and my doing will always coincide. How about you? And then, consider the following article as we talk about forgiveness.)
THE BERRY SPOON
“I’ll never forgive him. I told him I’ll never forgive him.”
The attractive elderly lady spoke softly, but with resolve, as I attended to her nightly cares. Her expression was troubled as she turned away, focusing her eyes on the drape closing in the nursing home bed. Our conversation had traveled from the temporal to the eternal and now a deep hurt had surfaced.
She told of how her brother had approached her hospital bed, accusing her of taking more than her share of family heirlooms following their mother’s death. He spoke of various items, ending with “the berry spoon.” He said, “I want the berry spoon.” For the forty years since the parent’s death he had hidden his feelings, and now they erupted. She was both hurt and angered by his accusation and vowed never to forgive him. “It’s my spoon. It was given to me,” she defended herself. “He’s wrong and I won’t forgive him.”
Standing at her bedside, I felt my spirit soften and grieve. A spoon . . . a berry spoon. In the bed before me lay a woman given two months to live – sixty days – and she would face eternity and never see her brother again in this life. Her mind and spirit were in anguish and her only remaining family tie was broken over a berry spoon.
As I returned to my nurse’s station, I was drawn deep into thought. How many berry spoons were there in my life? How many things, as insignificant as a spoon, in light of eternity, separate me from full communion with God? How much lack of forgiveness keeps me from fellowship with others? I could only ask God to search my heart. How many berry spoons in my life?
“”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 6:14-15 NKJV