2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Perhaps one of the lingering strongholds that regularly trip up the Christian is unforgiveness.
One definition of unforgiveness is that it is like someone taking poison in the hope that it will kill their enemy. Unforgiveness always hurts the one who harbors it.
The law gives us the means whereby we can receive justice if we are wronged. Justice is good, because it is fair and righteous. It means that if you hurt me, I have legal recourse, and I can get my own back.
Romans 7:12: “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
The essence of justice and the law is that if someone hurts us, we can be compensated, but we must expect to be treated by the same rules if we are in the wrong. The problem with the law and righteous judgment is that if we are to be judged by the law, and get what we deserve because of it, none of us can be saved.
The law is like a vulture in the sky; it floats high up lofty and aloof, and it is able to see a wonderful panoramic view of God’s creation, but all it is looking for is decaying meat. The law is like an x-ray machine that can tell you what is wrong, but it cannot cure the problem. It is in the area of justice and the law that Satan shines like a star.
He is a master prosecutor and a master accuser. When you accuse someone of a wrong, and you are crying out for justice to be done, the enemy rubs his hands with glee. Satan does this all the time; he instigates situations where we will allow the flesh to demand justice. When we do, he is always there to get for you what is rightfully yours. After all is he not the accuser of the brethren?
As good as what the devil is at the law; there is a place where God beckons us to go where he cannot follow. There is a place higher than the law and justice, that place is what we call mercy and grace.
1 Corinthians 15:56: “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”
When you demand justice for yourself, you place yourself back into a legal system that has the authority to demand justice and repayment for your own shortcomings as well. You cannot have justice from others, and then expect only mercy for yourself. You must choose what you want – justice or mercy.
If you choose justice, you will be judged, and if you choose mercy, you will receive mercy.
When you want compensation from your brother, you are giving the enemy a key into your own life. Justice is a legal principal.
When you try to exact justice, you fall from mercy and grace back down to what is “fair and good.” “Fairness” is way below “mercy” on God’s scale of justice. Take your claims for justice and fairness to the Cross, and leave them there so that mercy and grace can follow you into your life. When you come to the understanding of this principal of grace and mercy, you begin to understand what Jesus meant when He said…
Matthew 5: 44,45: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
If you have received mercy and grace, you cannot demand that which is just anymore. If you have received mercy – you must dispense mercy without justice. You can have mercy, or you can have justice, but you cannot have both.
Forty one times in the Bible it says that “His mercy endures forever.”
James 2:13: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Two Types of Forgiveness
In the biblical sense of forgiveness, there are two distinctly different types of forgiveness.
Firstly there is Judicial Forgiveness.
This is forgiveness that comes from our involvement with the law. It is forgiveness based on something you do. For example:
Matthew 6: 12 “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
This is an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. To obtain forgiveness under the law, you must first forgive others before you can receive forgiveness.
Secondly there is the Forgiveness that comes from Grace.
This forgiveness goes beyond a pardon or absolution, this is a mercy that cannot be earned; it can only be received.
Romans 3:23, 24: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 1:7, 8: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”
Under grace one receives forgiveness based on who you are in Christ, and not on what you do. Paul said to the Philippian jailer in…
Acts 16: 31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
The jailers’ redemption and forgiveness was based on him believing what God had said, not on anything he could do. He was not saved because of a great sermon or some church program; he was saved only because he believed the truth.
The forgiveness that comes from grace is the result of who you are, not what you do. You cannot merit forgiveness under grace, but you can merit forgiveness under the law, because the law makes provision for the restoration of those who break the law.
Ephesians 2:5: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”
Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Romans 4:5: “But to him that does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
When God washed away your sin, He did so in an instant and the effects of this divine act of love are permanent. Bear in mind that it was not a simple book entry, or a mere stroke of the pen that enabled God to do this. Forgiving you was not without its cost to God.
Your forgiveness cost Him His blood. It cost Him untold suffering in human form, He paid with His life in the vilest and most unfair slaughter in all of history. Jesus was crucified naked on a bloody Cross; it was a very public spectacle.
Do not think that your forgiveness was cheap. There can be no comparison between you forgiving someone an offence and God forgiving you your sin. It cost God dearly. Even at such a high cost – God thought that you were worth it.
He paid the price willingly so that He and you might be reconciled and have a personal relationship. Why this is so, is a mystery to this writer. Nonetheless God is sovereign and we are glad of it.
One of the problems with believers today is not in the being who they are in Christ;
it is in the knowing of who they are in Christ.
This is why it is so important for the Christian to continuously renew the mind. As a born-again blood washed, believer, you are in Christ whether you believe it or not, whether you accept it or not. But it is only when we truly know who we are in Christ, that the grace of God can flow like a river of life from within; because it is flowing from its source, and that source is Christ in you.
John 7:38: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
The “being” is what you are and the coming to “know” what and who you are is what gives every Christian power over every situation and circumstance that comes along.
A New Commandment
Jesus was asked what He thought the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses. His answer is found in…
Mark 12: 29-31: “…The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The answer Jesus gave was from the law. It entailed an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
You had to consider and empathize with your neighbor in order to live in harmony and peace with him or her.
A Jew’s relationship with God was based on the Mosaic Law, which meant that the keeping of that law placed them in a position of benevolence and protection. This same concept was to be extended to his neighbor. The law governed the “loving of one’s neighbor.”
When Jesus knew that the cross was inevitable, He introduced a new commandment to the disciples. It included the former, but it went further because it included grace.
John 13:34, 35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This commandment gives up the right to be right. It is the loving of our brethren even as Jesus loved us. The same selfless and sacrificial love that was given to us, we are to extend to our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is forgiveness without recompense; it is mercy and grace.
Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.”
Forgive and forget?
We have all heard the quote to forgive and forget. This is silly because it would mean that whenever you forgave someone, you would have memory loss. I think that what is more accurate is that when you forgive, you no longer remember the situation with negative thoughts.
The bitterness and pain are all gone and you can talk about the “infraction” as if it was done to someone else. You will know that you have forgiven when you no longer have that “grudge” feeling. So many of us keep that “grudge” feeling alive; we nurse the hurt and keep it fed and warm, almost as a badge of honor.
Dear brother and sister…GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO BE RIGHT.