Practical Forgiveness

By Rhonda Maydwell

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Finally, take it to the offender.
So we have determined our response should be one of wishing the one who has sinned against us will find true repentance. We have taken our pain to God, and now we need to know how to respond to the one who offended us. A good illustration for just that is to look at Jesus confronting a sinner. The Book of John tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery brought before Him by the Pharisees (John 8:1-11). The Pharisees demanded the woman be stoned as was commanded by the Law. Jesus' response was interesting and new to these Old Testament Jews. Before He uttered a word, Jesus stooped to the ground and began writing in the dust. What was He writing? Many Biblical scholars believe He may have been listing sins: gossip, slander, theft, hate... Jesus then agreed to the punishment with one caveat: The one without sin must throw the first stone. Then he continued writing in the dust. ... coveting, envy, lust, jealousy, rage. Slowly each accuser slipped away, I picture it in my head more as a slinking away. I know I would be. Who am I, a lowly sinner, to pronounce judgment and punishment on another wretch like myself? I find it very telling that the oldest, perhaps the wisest and most mature of the group, left first. Jesus then looks up from His writing. He is now alone with the woman. He stands up, brushing the dust from His hands, and asks her if no one is left to condemn her. She replies there is none, correctly identifying and addressing Jesus as "Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." He forgave her and turned her from her sin. Forgiveness is the saints' response to sin, even sins committed against us.

Forgiveness does not mean approval of or allowance for the sin. Jesus named the sins in the dust and did not dispute that the woman sinned. He did not pretend the sins never happened. He forgave, but that doesn't mean the sinner won't face consequences. Natural consequences such as loss of confidence in the offender is understandable. Some sins against a person result in loss of relationship. You can forgive someone, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're obligated to keep that person in my life, or at the same status or level they once filled. Someone who has stolen from me will not enjoy the same level of trust or access they may have once held in my life. Unless we are in a clear relationship of authority over the sinner (child, employee, pastoral flock), it is not usually our role to discipline, or punish one who sinned against us. And for those who do fall under our authority, we are charged to protect, serve, and pray for the spiritual well-being of those in our charge — discipline would be directed towards restoration.

So, in short the answers to my questions are:

1. As a Christian walks his or her faith towards righteousness (aka, be like Jesus), his or her response to sinners should be a desire for repentance and for the offender to be restored to God and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Judgment will come, and our desire is for all to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

2. Like we do to God, sinners will continue to fail (hint — that means you and me). Forgiveness is the response of the one offended by sin, and helping the sinner to seek repentance, even if only in prayer. Unless specifically placed in authority over a person, it is not a Christian's place to punish a sinner. The one offended may certainly find it necessary to take measures to protect him or herself from being continually offended by a sinner.

I find I fall short of God's plan for my life all too frequently. When confronted with one who has harmed or hurt me I wonder why it is that I want God's justice for them, but His mercy and patience for myself? This is my prayer today:
Lord, help me to be more like You every day. Give me Your eyes to see others as You see them — as ones dear to You, and ones You want for all eternity. Father, give me the patience and mercy for others that You shower on me daily. Forgive me when I fail and sin against You and others. Lead me away from the temptation to sin when I have been hurt or angered. Help me to forgive when it is hard, and I really don't want to. Provide for me, opportunities to seek restoration in broken relationships. Thank You, Jesus, that You demonstrate Your perfect love and ways for me to follow. Your amazing grace gives me life. In Jesus' name, Amen.
By demonstrating grace and mercy to those who mean us harm, we are the face of Jesus to a hopeless culture, and we may just gain a brother or sister (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Image Credit: Dunja0712; "Goodbye"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published on 3-13-17