I want to begin today’s post on forgiveness by looking at the story of Zacchaeus. I remember this story from the song from Sunday School, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man….” The song describes the man’s encounter with Jesus. But, the words of the song leave out some essential details. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and notorious for cheating and stealing from the people in his area. The people hated him and blamed him for causing them trouble. Yet, Jesus chose such a man to go to visit for dinner.
Zacchaeus’ rendezvous with Jesus changed his life. We see this in Luke 19:8; “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Zacchaeus took responsibility for his past sins and made amends for the wrongs. Jesus offered him forgiveness but did his neighbors? Would we want to give him forgiveness?
Like many periods in history, we live in unsettled times. Hatred for others seems to run rampant. We hate those who disagree with us or those who are different than us. And, we blame others instead of taking responsibility for our part in these problems. The church is not exempt from these issues either. Some Christians forget about Matthew 6:15; “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We are forgiven so that we can forgive.
So, what does Christian forgiveness look like for us? I believe, as shown in the story of Zacchaeus, God wants His people to take responsibility for their actions, accept the consequences and move towards reconciliation with God and those around us. Just like in Jesus’ time, I think some believe that only certain people deserve our forgiveness. We forget Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:39; “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Ouch! But, I want to resist an evil person. Do I really want to forgive them too?
Struggle of Forgiveness
We are not alone in our struggles with forgiveness. Peter feels conflicted about the situation too. He even asks Jesus about it in Matthew 18:21-22; “21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” I did the math, which equals 539 times (although Christ did not mean that number in the literal sense). Ouch again! Can I forgive the same person that often?Christian Forgiveness – We are forgiven so that we can forgive. Click To Tweet
Now, forgiveness does not mean there is no punishment for the action. Throughout the Bible, God shows us the consequences of sin. Romans 3:23 reminds us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And, in today’s societies, penalties exist for those that break the law. So, in simple terms, as children of God, we forgive the murderer while the court system tries them for their crime. Easy to say but hard to put into practice for most of us.
Struggle Against Hatred
Anywhere we see hatred, we see sin. But, without forgiveness, we add to the evil. Once again, the Bible warns us about hatred. Here are a few verses as examples:
- 1 John 4:20; “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
- Proverbs 10:12; “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
- 1 John 3:15; “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Following Christ’s Example
As God’s church and people look at social justice issues of our day, we must remember to forgive and not hate those who perpetuate the problem. We can move hearts to action without stirring up hatred. But, the line is easily blurred. As Christ-followers, may we forgive like Christ. As an innocent man, Christ hung on the cross for our sins and forgave those who put Him there. Can we follow His example and forgive the unforgivable action of others? The future of our society depends on us to set the standard and follow it daily.
Lord Jesus, please help us to remember to forgive others as You forgive us. Let us remember that no amount of forgiveness is too much. Please help us keep our hearts free of hatred of others. Teach us Your ways, so we do not sin against You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
#forgivenss #christianforgiveness #forgiven
Grace and Peace to you,
Yvonne M. Morgan is a Christian author, blogger, and speaker.
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”