Forgiveness Is A Two-Way Street By Philip North

Much has been preached, taught, and written on how mankind, especially Christians, should and must practice forgiveness. No doubt, it is a command, not a mere option. After saying what has come to be known by many as “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus said the following in His Sermon on the Mount: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:13-14). Then upon completion of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Christ also said, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35). These words were spoken because in that parable, the lord of this unmerciful servant delivered him to the tormentors for not forgiving a small debt owed to him by a fellow servant, while he himself owed a much bigger debt to his lord (Verses 32-34). Paul mentioned the necessity of forgiving in some of his epistles (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Certainly, it is seen how the New Testament shows forgiveness to be a necessity for us all—-not just the best thing to do, nor merely “good advice.”

However, like most anything else in life, there is a misuse and an abuse of forgiveness practiced by some, yea, perhaps many, and such ought not to be. There are individuals who definitely frustrate this command! When someone repeatedly wrongs somebody else, either by maliciously committing the same sin(s) constantly to another person, or by simply wronging the same individual constantly, the appeal is made often to what the Bible says about forgiving someone “seventy times seven.” That is to say, it must always be done, no matter how many times someone is wronged by the same person. While Jesus does tell Peter that one must be forgiven “seventy times seven” in Matthew 18:22, the book of Luke has something interesting to say on this. In chapter 17:34, Jesus said to His disciples, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent: thou shalt forgive him.” (Emphasis in italics, mine-PN)

Gentle reader, this shows that the one committing the wrong(s) needs to have a penitent heart! Jesus clearly and unavoidably said, “if he repent.” Let the reader please not let those important words of Christ go unheeded. Every effort should be made not to continue in one’s sinning against that other person! It appears that many people tend to “hide behind” this verse, (like untold numbers cowardly “hide behind” the 5th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution!) while they continue wronging the same individual time and time again, and/or carelessly, repeatedly commit the same wrong(s) to that same individual! “Repent” means “turn away from.” It means to make a 180-degree move, known in the military as an “about face.” Hence, the one seeking forgiveness should be sincere in doing so. God demands it. Our Creator does not wish for us to, as the old saying goes, “play upon someone’s sympathies.” This is every whit toying with that person’s temperament and merciful side! When Paul wrote on this, he said in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (Emphasis in italics, mine again-PN). True repentance must carry with it “godly sorrow,” and it must, therefore, be “after a godly manner.” Only then can it be said that this individual “sorrowed to repentance,” and thus, truly repented.

Indeed, forgiveness too is a “two-way street,” as we just plainly noted in the Bible. Yes, the one who has been wronged must forgive. Howbeit, the one who committed the wrongdoing MUST TRULY REPENT! The offender who, again, misuses and abuses the “seventy times seven” command by Jesus needs to correct his heart. He needs to realize—-and accept—-that the Saviour Himself said true repentance must be felt. To continually try someone’s patience and tolerance level is not approved by God. “Godly sorrow” must be in one’s heart. Otherwise, how can once expect God to forgive him of his own sins? He need not, for Satan still has that one in his clutches. Such behaviour manifests this type of person to be nervy, defiant of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), lacking in self-discipline, and void of true spirituality.

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