One of the great questions I have sometimes is not whether God would really forgive me because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I accept this by faith without fully understanding because the Bible tells me so. What puzzles me more is why an infinitely pure holy and powerful God would care to spend eternity with me. And then I come to this verse and am reminded that while the distance from the North to South poles is fixed (12,430 miles) from East to West there is no measure. That measure”s limit lies beyond the edge of the universe, just like the love and mercy of God!
One day what will matter most is not how often we were right but how often we forgave a wrong!
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 NKJV
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us Psalms 103:12
Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? I did! First I complained about the offense till God reminded me of my own sins. Ashamed of myself I I did truly forgive. But then came those pesky times when I would see him and then I would turn my head or force a smile. But then one day it struck me that God’s forgiveness worked in quite a different way. He saw my sin, freely forgave and then was delighted every time we met. He has not yet looked away nor forced a smile. Instead He has not only forgotten my offense He has loved me ever since as His dearest friend!
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25
Of all the prayers for restoration, none is stranger or more powerful than the prayer for forgiveness. We all know that as Christians we have a duty to forgive. Forgiveness was commanded, and modeled by our Lord. But if you are anything like me forgiving someone who has done me wrong is like eating liver: I know it is good, but I have a tough time swallowing it! But forgiveness is central to God’s work both in our own lives and in the life of others around us. In the past our own sin erected an unbreakable blockade between us and God but then His forgiveness became the doorway through which we were adopted into His family! When we choose to forgive for His sake, then we can also become doorways rather than blockades in the lives of others. For who will you become open door today?
And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:37-39
When Simon invited Jesus to his house that day he thought that Jesus would be delighted to come. Though Simon wasn’t one of those plotting to kill Jesus, he was uncomfortable with His teaching and wanted to have a chance to question Jesus personally. Jesus accepted the invitation because He wanted to answer Simon’s questions, just not in the way that Simon had expected! Simon thought that he the situation under control, till that sinful woman entered and began washing Jesus’ feet. Simon couldn’t understand. A humble repentant faith was foreign to him. His faith meant obeying all the rules and regulations then feeling good about himself. But faith is more than just giving Jesus a seat at our table. Faith is seeing ourselves for who we are because we have seen Him for who He truly is! Think of what Simon missed. He had given no water, no oil, no kiss, in all the time that Jesus sat at his table. What chances will you and I miss today if we find only what we are looking for and not what He has planned?
For those of you who like myself are gardeners you know that Tulips, Daffodils and other tuberous flowers are never planted in the Spring. Instead we go out to dig up some corner of the garden at the end of October. At that time there are no blossoms whatsoever in the flowerbeds, but the earth is still slightly warm from the summer’s heat and it offers the perfect place for bulbs to make a home. Autumn rains then soften the bulb and while no one is watching it sends out tiny roots into the surrounding soil. Then, Winter’s wind and cold freeze the ground solid. The tiny tendrils are locked in an icy embrace for four to five months. It would appear to the unknowing observer that there is no hope for beauty or blossom. Yet all the while, under the surface God does His mysterious work. We look out the window one early April morning suddenly the bulbs amaze us with their brilliant yellows, whites and reds.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:3
In the same way as the tulips and daffodils were planted so our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave forgiveness in the face of cold hatred, scorning and mocking. He freely forgave with no apparent hope of anyone accepting the pardon He gave. He was planted in the ground and then not only on the third day when He arose but on every day when His forgiveness blossoms in a heart His act of love continues to yield an abundant harvest!
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
Many years ago I heard an interview on Radio Bible. The questioning went something like this,
Host: To what do you attribute your business success?”
Business man “Good decisions”“
Host “And how did you learn to make good decisions?”
Businessman “Bad decisions!”
In our personal relationships with others we are always making decisions. We may decide to trust or to doubt. We may choose to forgive or hold a grudge. Each decision is an investment (or lack thereof) in the life of someone else. You might look at the king’s choice to forgive in the parable which Jesus told as a bad business decision. He could have legally sold this dishonest servant into slavery to recover some of his loss or he could have had him thrown in jail. But instead of richly deserved punishment, this king decided to invest mercy in his servant’s life.
Yet as in this man’s story it appears that the king had made a terrible choice. Instead of generating a return of gratitude in his servant’s heart, this forgiven man went immediately out and acted mercilessly with others. “What a waste! What an awful decision!” you might say about the king’s investment. You might also add, “So he should never do that again!”
But mercy is not like a worldly investment. Jesus parable shows how God forgives each of us. We are exactly like the dishonest thieving servant. We have cheated and stolen and yet God has for two thousand years continued to invest forgiveness in us. How often we must have grieved God’s heart when we failed entirely in our response to his mercy! Is there someone today in whom we can begin to invest even a tiny part of the forgiveness God has given us?