Forgiveness from God’s Perspective: More on Forgiveness in Christian Life

Posted April 21st, 2016 in Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues, Spiritual Development by

Article 5B of the Forgiveness Section of the Positive Psychology Series
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In my previous article, I continued my discussion on forgiveness by looking specifically at what the Bible teaches us about forgiveness. I continue that discussion in this article, probing more deeply what forgiveness looks like to God.

The Perspective of Having Been Forgiven

In Matthew 18, Jesus decrees that we ought to forgive our brother not seven times, but 70 times seven times. He follows this expansive command by telling a parable that describes the scope of God’s forgiveness for us. A king forgives his servant an exceedingly, impossibly large debt, but the servant goes away and immediately threatens another man, demanding that he should repay a much smaller debt than the one he had just been forgiven. The caliber of the parable is beyond even biblical proportions: 10,000 talents were forgiven and 100 denarii are demanded. With the average American annual income at $50k, this is the equivalent of $7,500,000,000 (billion) dollars compared to $16,700. We should note that the lesser debt is considerable – it would still be a large sacrifice for almost anyone to forgive $17k. However, Jesus does not address the relationship of these men. Instead, His interpretation focuses on the forgiveness of the king and the righteous anger of the king’s servants, who see the wicked servant demand immediate recompense. The king hands the wicked servant over to be tortured until he can repay his debt. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18:35).”

This is a good example of the kind of scripture people (myself included) tend to gloss over, because its demand is difficult and sweeping. I don’t want to forgive that kind of debt! Financially, it’s simply a matter of not loaning out that much money. However, human beings undergo wounds and transgressions that are much more costly than any amount of money. If we try to forgive on our own merit, and to be righteous ourselves, could anyone forgive well? But when we look at forgiveness from the perspective of what we have been forgiven, and what the Lord offers us when we love and forgive as He does, then the price of our own sacrifice seems as nothing. It does, however, still test the soul.

Forgiveness and the Nature of God

Let’s discuss forgiveness from the perspective of the big-picture, using the tactics of the enemy to illustrate the nature of God’s forgiveness. Firstly, the Accuser has the right to accuse. The devil is not some crazy, irrational idiot of hate, but is cunning and knows the law of the universe well. He knows that the wages of sin are death, and that the fear of God (believing that God is God) is the beginning of wisdom. The enemy knows better than anyone else that saying that God is not God is the foundation of sin, and that sin deserves punishment. Furthermore, he hates God, and He hates what God loves. This means that he is always trying to harm and destroy humanity, God’s spiritual masterpiece.

A primary tactic of the enemy is to accuse us to God and to ourselves, and he has every right to point out our sin. This is where God is shown to be perfectly just and perfectly merciful. It is God’s nature not to break the law to save us when we have sinned, but rather to fulfill it. He does not say that sin is no longer sin, but He simply chooses to forgive. He is an awesome and worthy King. In commanding us to forgive, He does not ask us to say that “nothing wrong was done.” Instead, He asks us to forgive as He does. The truth and fullness of the law is to love, and this requires much more than simply not sinning.

ANDREE-20160318-2213153880_86df8a14a4_bSeeing Your Transgressor with God’s Eyes

This means that forgiveness is not about removing the wrong that was done, or not feeling hurt anymore. Rather, to forgive is to refuse to join the devil in his accusation of a fellow human. It is to relinquish the right to judge or condemn, as you give your transgressor to God and choose to see them with His eyes.

Scripture constantly calls us to forgive because God forgives – it calls us to be like Him. I was once in a taxing volunteer role at Camp Malibu in BC, and I remember a sign on the wall in the kitchen that said: “No matter what you are going through, the cross was heavier.” The fact is that God has done more for you than He asks of you. You are called upon to forgive with the same desire to love, and the same lack of concern for yourself, as Christ. There is a psychological benefit to this, namely, freedom and the possibility of reconciliation. However, the Lord instructs us to forgive for His sake, and not because of any benefit. Note that He never says that forgiveness should be easy, or that it will eventually become painless once you have practiced it. Jesus knows that forgiveness sometimes means dying to ourselves. This is a painful process, and He knows it better than anyone.

Christian Counseling to Tap into the Power of Forgiveness

Have you taken offense at someone? Is there a place in your heart that wishes that someone will hurt in return for hurting you? In all likelihood, there is. This may be hard to admit, but most people have some forgiveness to give. Don’t wait for the time to be right. Don’t even worry about the freedom that you will experience by releasing that person from your judgement and hurt. Just forgive them now because you have been forgiven even more.

It is my pleasure to join with clients and help them to see the ways in which they have already overcome in life, and how God has uniquely shaped them both to do great things and to experience joy and goodness in their lives and relationships.

 

Photos”Stairs,” courtesy of audrey630, morguefile.com; “Bibles,” courtesy of Paul Keller, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Paradise” courtesy of otjep, Image ID 1442614, freeimages.com

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Andrew Engstrom

Andrew Engstrom, MS, LMFTA

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate

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(425) 354-5472 | andrewe@seattlechristiancounseling.com

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