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Monday, March 12, 2018

Learning What Forgiveness Really Is

In review of Luke 23:34 it says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (NIV).

Bottom Line:
Forgive, for they don’t know what they are doing.

What this means to me:
Even when I’m persecuted, like Jesus I can forgive because He forgave me.

Today's verse comes from the last part of Luke 23, where Jesus is placed on the cross. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."

Jesus asked God to forgive the people who were putting him to death. God answered that prayer by opening up the way of salvation even to Jesus' murderers. Jesus was suffering the most horrible, painful death ever devised by man, and he looked at the people responsible for his suffering and prayed for their forgiveness. Because I am a sinner, I also played a part in putting Jesus to death. The Good News is that God is gracious. He has forgiven me and gives me a new life through his Son.

Forgiveness is most misused, misapplied, and misunderstood quality in our culture. We think we know what forgiveness is all about, but I really don’t. Here are some misconceptions:

1. A person should not be forgiven until asking for it.
2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused.
3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
4. You haven’t really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.
5. When you see somebody hurt, it is your duty to forgive the offender.

However, what I’m finding in God’s Word about forgiveness, are that all five of those statements are false. Over the next few days, I’ll be digging into what forgiveness really is.

First, real forgiveness is unconditional. There’s no attachment to it. You don’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. You don’t bargain for it. Forgiveness is not based on a promise to never do it again. I am to offer forgiveness whether someone asks for it or not. When Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV), nobody had asked for it. Nobody had said, “Please forgive me, Jesus, for what they’re doing to you.” He just offered it. He took the initiative.

Second, forgiveness isn’t minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When somebody asks for my forgiveness, I would actually cheapen it if I say, “It’s no big deal. It really didn’t hurt.” If it wasn’t a big deal, you don’t need forgiveness and you don’t need to offer it.

Forgiveness is not only for the big stuff. If something really requires forgiveness, then I should not minimize it when somebody asks me for forgiveness. Don’t say it wasn’t a big deal. It was a big deal! If it is a big deal, then I need to admit it. There is a difference between being wounded and being wronged. Being wounded requires patience and acceptance, not forgiveness, because the person did it unintentionally. Being wronged requires forgiveness.

When situations of forgiveness come up in my life, I should look to Christ’s example and how he forgave me and model that with others.