The Christian and forgiveness
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
As we begin another season of lent, it is good we give a serious thought on this subject of forgiveness. We know that the devil has been using it as a weapon against believers to whittle down their faith and reduce their chances of blessing from the throne of Grace. I trust in this write up, God Himself will make us overcomers in Jesus name! Amen.
We must admit that forgiveness is not an easy task. Sometimes, it has to do with hurt, betrayals, disappoints, envy, jealousy and such other vices that may lead one to taking a step that may not be in tandem with the Lord’s Word. To underscore its importance, Peter, the Chief spokesman of the disciples, had to ask their master Jesus: “how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” So, Peter’s resort to use of number betrayed his frustration with this subject matter on forgiveness. May be he wanted to know one’s elastic patience before he retaliates. But Jesus, in His characteristic nature, says: “I do not say to you, up to seven times but up to seventy times seven,” (Matt. 18:22).
By this reply, Jesus tacitly places a burden on the believer’s shoulder not to keep a diary, but to go on forgiving. Yes, there may be hurt or betrayal; yet, it is the business of the Christian to forgive.
It is true that this type of teaching may not go down well with some people, yet, it is a way Jesus has chosen for His followers. Remember, Jesus practised what He taught. He was hurt, bruised, betrayed and mocked even on the cross. As if that was not enough, they tore His clothes, pierced His side and blood and water gushed out. Unbelievably, He still found a room in His heart to forgive. He says: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34). He also taught His disciples on the need to love their enemies and pray for them, (Matt. 5:44).
Indeed, when you forgive, you are strengthened and you feel lighter going to God even at this season in prayer. When you put behind you all the hate, disappointments and betrayals and allow God to deal with the situation, it is at that time that you can see yourself following in the Master’s footsteps. A society will move forward, if diaries of hate are put behind and then focus made on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, (Heb. 12:2).
St. Paul also taught us to “overcome evil with good and urged us further: “if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head,” (Rm. 12:20-21). Even Stephen, the first Christian martyr lends his voice: “father do not hold this sin against them,” (Acts 7:60). He was pleading on behalf of people, who treated him unjustly and even stoned him to death. What a good way of demonstrating forgiveness!
People of God, we need to reflect deeply on the brand of Christianity we have, if it is that of Jesus, it is one that beckons on the believer to forgive. It is compulsory, as further revealed in the famous Lord’s Prayer: “and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us,” (Luke 11:41a). Yes, forgiveness at whatever level may not be easy, but then that is a requirement of Jesus from His followers. I think no time is better than now, many have been wronged at family, Church and community level, but we trust God will give us the strength to forgive. Therefore, this Lenten season should afford us another opportunity to go to God in prayer and earnestly desire that through His Holy Spirit, we will yield to Him, as we practise forgiveness one to another. Cheers!
Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State
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