Tim Keller | May 17, 1998
Today we’re going to look at the practice of forgiveness in the Christian life. First, what God calls us to do and secondly, how to get the power to do it. Forgiveness is not just one of the many biblical commands that we have to force ourselves to do, but forgiveness becomes genuine and real when there is a deep change at the heart level. We don’t look at the law and follow it as an end in itself, but we look at Jesus to be changed from the inside out – this is where we get the power to truly practice forgiveness.
There are three things in today’s passage Jesus tells us that are very important to understand about the practice of forgiveness: 1) forgiveness is a particular aim, a goal; 2) forgiveness is an action; 3) forgiveness is acceptance.
Music can touch our hearts and bring back memories, often reminding us of prayers we’ve said before. Remember, when it seems like God is taking a long time to answer our prayers, He’s actually helping us grow in joy and character. The main point here is the difference between just being a good person and truly having a changed heart. This real change comes from accepting Jesus as our Savior, and truly understanding His love, joy, sacrifice, and patience. Most of all, it comes from understanding what forgiveness really means.
1. Forgiveness has a purpose
The goal of forgiveness is to stop the spread of evil, which requires both rebuke and forgiveness. Rebuking isn’t about punishing, but rather about expressing forgiveness and restoring a relationship. If we say we forgive but don’t rebuke, we’re letting sin continue, which is selfish. If we rebuke without hoping for repentance, we’re just looking for punishment.
2. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling
Jesus taught us that forgiveness is something we do, which can then lead to a feeling, not the other way around. It doesn’t depend on whether the person who hurt us is sorry or has changed, or on how we feel about them. Instead, forgiveness is a deliberate choice we make based on what we know and understand, showing that it’s already in our hearts.
3. Forgiveness means accepting the wrong and making it right
Forgiveness isn’t just about letting go of a wrong; it’s about actively taking on the debt and making it right. This means acknowledging the harm the wrongdoer has caused, refusing to fight back, being kind to them, and praying for their well-being. Following Jesus’ example, we can find the strength to forgive, no matter how difficult it is, and fulfil our duty to forgive.
February Book Offer
February Book Offer