Two For One

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”

Psalm 103:12


 
It was many years ago that we had a member of our ministry team we nicknamed “Matthew 18” because almost weekly they would share a story about how they “Matthew 18’d” someone as if it was the highlight of their week, like they were a gun for hire in an old western movie. And if they were not sharing how they had “Matthew 18’d” someone themselves, they were angry and bitter that it had been reported to them that someone was talking about them behind their back and would respond to the criticism by saying, “They never Matthew 18’d me.” What they failed to comprehend is Matthew 18 isn’t about bragging rights, its not even about being right, its about being reconciled. Sin separates people, forgiveness unites us. Isn’t that what the Cross is all about? Ephesians 4:32 states it plainly, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” How quickly we become victims while being blind to the log in our own eye.
 
Matthew 18 is not a lesson in learning to keep score or a means of proving we are right and someone else is wrong. The principle of the text was and still is the restoration of something broken. Jesus from the Cross cried out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus took the nails for us so we could know forgiveness and restoration all the while being reconciled back to God and one another. Forgiveness is foundational to the Cross, its the glue that holds the Crux Immissa along with the Patibulum in place. Jesus in serving His disciples what is known as the Last Supper in Matthew 26:27-28 explains the purpose of the cup in communion, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. The old covenant was the law, you know, “eye for an eye” but the new covenant is grace, unmerited, undeserved, one way love!    

Someone once said, “forgiveness is a grand idea until you actualy have to put it into practice.” I recall reading an article years and years ago now that said, “American’s are not as good at forgiving as they are at forgetting.” The point being made was that people don’t practice true forgiveness they just simply don’t deal with offense and in time forget it due to more current life pressures that consume them. By the way, forgetting without truly forgiving is not only not Biblical, it’s not a healthy way to deal with conflict. Most all of us have heard the expression, “Bury something alive and eventually it will come back to haunt you.” Thats what happens when we fail to forgive. You can trust me on this, I know.

I have found in my years of counseling people the struggle many have with forgiving others is the thought that the other person is somehow “getting away with it” without any consequence which is simply not true at all. Forgiveness brings freedom to the one who offers it as when you forgive you no longer carry the stress or the burden of the offense. You give it to God or like the old saying, “Let go and let God.” God keeps great records. We should all be happy that love is patient or God would have snuffed us out a long time ago. If you forget everything else written here please don’t forget this, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Offering forgiveness is setting the captive free then realizing the captive was you!

Shauna Niequist in her book “Savor” writes, “How do I forgive someone who doesn’t think she did anything wrong? Or who doesn’t care? Why would I forgive someone who doesn’t even think she needs to be forgiven? Because I want my neck and my back muscles to stop hurting. Because I want to sleep, instead of having endless  imaginary conversations. Because I want my mind back. Because I want my life back. So I let her off the hook. I let her off once, to start, and felt pretty good about myself, until someone brought up her name at lunch, and then I got mad all over again, which threw me for a loop. I forgave her. Why am I still so mad at her? I felt like I bought expensive wrinkle cream and woke up more wrinkly than ever. I wanted my money back. Forgiveness is both a decision and a process. It’s hard enough to choose to forgive in the first place, and then we have to do it again. And again. And again. And again.” After all it was our Lord answering Peter who had asked Jesus how many times are we to forgive someone who sins against us, and “Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily get easier to offer over time. Giving and receiving forgiveness is just right every time. Unfortunately when we are wronged we have a tendency because of pride to deny the person who offended us instead of denying ourselves. Being unforgiving feeds our fleshly desires by making us feel we are in control. We want as the old saying goes, “a pound of flesh.” The best way I have found to forgive myself and to forgive others when needed is to focus on the Cross of Christ first and foremost. When someone wrongs me I try to remind myself that I cant play the victim because after all, it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. Jesus is the true victim of any and all sin.  If no one other than me ever lived on this planet, Jesus still would have needed to go to the Cross in order for me to be saved. We are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. We do well to remember, “the wages of sin is death”, therefore I have earned the right to die and yet the Bible goes on to say “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Not just my Lord or your Lord, but our Lord, we are in this together!

Let me asked you a personal question. Have you messed up, loved one? Are you in sin? If so then fess up knowing the joy of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do the math, that’s two for one! When we confess our sin we not only receive forgiveness, but we are washed and made clean. The stain of our sin has been washed away and all that remains is a clean slate, completely justified, just as if I had never sinned. That’s the Good News of the Gospel!

Here is something to keep in mind as you go your way today. “We are never more like Jesus than when we truly and completely forgive. And we are never more like the devil when we don’t.” The choice is yours and mine today, lets choose to forgive and forget! Two for one really is a great deal! 

 
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Colossians 3:12-13


I LOVE YOU!

Michael Osthimer

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