Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Brutal Assault

"But, if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:15)

A father stands in a courtroom and says, "I forgive you.," to the man who murdered his wife and children. The assault upon his family was merciless and brutal. They were totally innocent victims of this depravity. Others, thousands, have stood in courtrooms and demanded justice, flinging their anger and spitting their vengeance at those who victimized their family members. "We demand justice," we often say, when we really want vengeance.

There is another brutal assault. It is an assault on a not so innocent victim. It is the assault of a Holy God upon our sinful flesh. When we are wronged and God demands that we forgive, His demand assaults our flesh, our egos, and our sense of personal justice. His demand that we forgive will either destroy us as we hold onto our right to be right, or it will destroy the flesh that keeps us from being right with Him.

We are assaulted and God says, "forgive." We are wronged and God says, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt.5:12) People hate us, do all they can to destroy us, and our flesh cries out for justice and vengeance, and the Spirit of God pierces our flesh and says, "love your enemies, bless those who cures you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;" (Mt.5:44)

Whenever, not just when the wrong is great, but even when it is small . . . whenever we are tempted not to forgive those who have sinned against us, we only need to say, "Since Jesus forgave me, and my sins put Him on the cross, do I have any right not to forgive them? Even if I were crucified, I would not be innocent." And, beyond that, we must trust that God is enough, more than enough than vengeance will ever be.

This demand to forgive is assaulting and insulting to our egos and our flesh, but in light of our own assault on the Son of Man, and His forgiveness of us in spite of that assault, we can never claim to be faithful followers of our Savior if we will not forgive any and all sins against us. This does not mean that we are unsaved. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. It does, however, mean that we will never have a right relationship with God as long as any unforgiveness remains in our hearts. And that will always be an assault upon our old, fleshly nature. But, when we forgive, as Christ commands and enables us to do, we will experience freedom from our flesh and from the burden of vengeance, which belongs to God alone.