August 6, 2009

1Ti 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

God wants to forgive.

He had a choice. He could give us what we deserve for our sins, or he could send his Son to suffer and to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven. Because he chose the cross, we know beyond any doubt that God wants to forgive. He intensely wants to forgive.

There was no other way but the cross.

Before going to the cross, Jesus prayed in the garden, “If you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” If forgiveness of sins were possible without sending Christ to the cross, surely God would have been willing, and Jesus would not have gone to the cross. But God knew from the beginning that there was no other way. So Jesus humbly submitted to God’s will.

As he was being crucified, Jesus uttered some amazing words, words that take our breath away. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He had already been unjustly condemned, mocked, beaten, and scourged. Now his hands and feet were nailed to the cross and he was dying a slow, torturous death. Yet Jesus still wanted to forgive — and to forgive even those who drove the nails into his hands and feet.

Yes, God wants to forgive. He *really* wants to forgive.

Mic 7:18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

How about us?

Mat 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Mat 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Jesus warns us that if we do not forgive those who sin against us, neither will God forgive us. There is no more sobering passage in all the scripture. Even though God intensely desires to forgive, he will not forgive if we do not forgive. God must find our refusal to forgive highly offensive–so offensive, in fact, that it outweighs his tremendous desire to forgive. Unforgiveness is an ugly, ugly thing. Like God, we should also find our unforgiveness offensive. After all, failure to forgive would cost us our salvation. We simply must forgive.

How many of us will forfeit the forgiveness that could have been ours, because we refuse to forgive others?

Forgiveness is hard. We see the evil in the other person and we want justice, not mercy. We feel violated and betrayed. It’s not fair! We don’t think the other person deserves forgiveness. We just don’t want to forgive. How unlike God we are!

But we are never more like Jesus than when we forgive someone who has hurt us. Jesus even forgave those who drove the nails into his hands. We, too, need to forgive those who don’t deserve forgiveness. If there are people who have wronged you, whom you have not yet forgiven, take care of that before the sun goes down. Be urgent, and forgive!

Thank God for his mercy! May we learn to be more like him.

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