Everyone agrees on grace and that forgiveness is wonderful idea! Isn’t it awesome of God to give us a way back to Him; all we need to do is ask, and BOOM! Its done. Actually, that BOOM comes before we even ask. The forgiveness is already there, just waiting for us.
However, forgiveness is a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways … or it doesn’t cut at all. On one side we’ve got the forgiveness that we’ve received through God’s mercy. Then on the other side we’ve got the forgiveness that we give out through our mercy to others. Paul links this duality for us in Ephesians 4, … forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. Paul is following what Jesus taught on forgiveness, that our own is directly affected by the measure of it, that we give out, … forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven … (Matt 6).
Take note of the word “as”, this is a warning to us. Ok now, watch … the word ‘as’ is a conditional particle, it connects words and terms in a way so that they are dependant on each other. Another way to say what Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer would be:
-Father … forgive me my debts provided that I have forgiven debts against me
-Father … forgive me my sins the same way that I have forgiven those who sin against me
Jesus meant for these to be connected to each other and all through scripture you can see this phenomenon at work; its called sowing and reaping. You don’t get to harvest forgiveness if you’ve sown unforgiveness, this would defy one of God’s most basic precepts. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
Clearly, God is telling us that it must be balanced. He will continue to do His part provided that we do ours.
“But I thought God’s forgiveness was free,” you might say. Some have accused my view as being a “works” dynamic and not one of grace. And I agree. It is ‘work’. But don’t you think it was work for God to send His only Son to earth for the sole reason for Him to die for our forgiveness. And don’t you think it was work for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when He had to choose to drink from the cup that His Father offered … for our forgiveness. No, I don’t think forgiveness is ‘free’ at all … I believe it cost God everything; and it will cost us too. To get a better picture of just how much ‘work’ it was for Jesus, read Luke 22:44; and to really drive it home for you, watch The Passion; then, see if grace is still …. Free. You see, grace IS free, to receive; but to give it, well, that takes us to a new level of cost, doesn’t it.
If we are followers of His way then we should expect the same fight for faith that He experienced.
In marriage its no different, we will have to fight just as hard to forgive and be merciful, perhaps even more (1 Cor 7). Does Jesus mean to ‘exclude’ husbands who need forgiveness? He never speaks of forgiveness in the relationship of marriage does He? I think the reason is that all the parameters and precepts that He taught are inclusive of each other already. Yes we are husband and wife but we are also brother and sister in the same family. We are Sons and Daughters of God the Father; Jesus died for the both of us; and the same Holy Spirit indwells each of us. Therefore, when Jesus said, So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offences, (Matt 18) He means for it to include, not exclude, the brother that is your husband.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
~ Corry ten Boom ~