There is a power in saying, “I forgive you”

In the Hebrew language the sentence “I forgive” meant, “I will not talk about it again.”

So when God says, I forgive you, He means that “I will not talk about your sin anymore.” Satan will remind you of your past sins but God will never remind nor remember them anymore.

Jesus while he was on this earth. He delivered one of the greatest sermons of all times. The Sermon on the mount. Those sermons are recorded in Matthew chapter 5 through 7.

David Guzik, in his commentary on the sermon on the mount writes like this,

It has been said if you took all the good advice for how to live ever uttered by any philosopher or psychiatrist or counsellor, took out the foolishness and boiled it all down to the real essentials, you would be left with a poor imitation of this great message by Jesus.

That statement is true. Many philosophies in the world today imitate the sermon on the mount. Many non-Christians follow it too. But quiet sadly, many Christians including me have failed to follow teachings of the sermon on the Mount.

I am going to write on single principle from the sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:43-48 KJV

Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Mat 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Historical Context
Jesus is dealing here with the age old problem of people hating their enemy. The Jewish teachers of those times started twisting the laws and the commands to their own benefit. In Leviticus 19:18, a command is given to “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had interpreted the word “neighbour” according to their own interests. They limited the word “neighbour” to people whom they loved and they showed enmity to people whom they hated. In other words, they chose who their neighbour should be.

The word neighbour in Hebrew is “ray’-ah” which means, an associate either close or not so close to you: a brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, neighbour or any other.

 

In simple terms, the word “neighbour” covers a span of all relationship that you and I will build throughout our life on this earth.

Jesus is now speaking to such a audience who were influenced by this misapplied teaching. He beings with saying, “You have heard that it was said,” and begins his discourse of loving your neighbour

Applications/Implications
There are several applications that can be understood from this passage. Now, based on the title that I am writing i.e. The power of forgiveness. I will be limiting the applications to the title.

Although we’ve lived the Christian life. We haven’t experienced the power of forgiveness. Why? Because we always find it difficult to forgive people who wronged us, hurt us or used us for their personal benefit. It is a struggle to say, “I forgive you” and quite easy to hold a grudge against such people.

But Jesus commands us to forgive. it’s not a request or a something to consider but a command.

On reading these verses there are three applications that can be drawn from this passage.

  1. Forgive so that you will receive your reward. v.44 – 45a
  2. Do not hold a grudge after you’ve forgiven them. v.45b – 47
  3. Set your eyes on being perfect. v.48

 

  1. Forgive so that you will receive you reward. v.44 – 45a

Jesus gives this stern command saying “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:”

Jesus here is dealing with a few issues.

  • Love people who are your enemies.
  • Bless people that curse you
  • Do good to those that hate you.
  • Pray for them that despitefully use you.
  • Pray for them that persecute you.

 

The moment you read this, you may be like… No! How can I forgive that person.! He/she might be one of those terrible people on this earth and they might be your greatest enemy. When you pass by them your blood pressure shoots up, you don’t spare a chance to mock them, gossip about them and turn your face away when you see them coming opposite to you.

But, this is what Jesus said.!

Love people who are your enemies
When Jesus said love your enemies…it goes more than just saying, “I forgive you.” When you show love to people who have become enemies to you. You begin to set a new standard of loving people. It is easy to love people who love you but hard to love people who hate you.

Here’s something important to understand. People who generally hurt others…are the people who are deeply hurt. Because of their hurt or wounds in their own life… it is easier for them to hurt others with their words. All the positivity, happiness, and joyfulness in their life is clouded by all the hurt that they have been through.

So when you show love to them despite their enmity towards you…they will be surprised to see the unconditional love that you show to them. When you do. Their hearts will be transformed. They will be interested to know how you can love them in spite of their enmity towards you. And by doing so you will show the unconditional love of God to them. You will show that you are the citizens of the kingdom of God.

Bless those who curse you
Bless those who pronounce curse on you. People will hate you and can misunderstand you easily which can lead them to cursing you for no reason. You do the opposite. Bless them. Do not return curse for a curse but bless them. Do the opposite. By doing that you will reveal the unconditional blessings of God in their life. Because, Romans 6:23 says, our sins deserved death. We deserved to be cursed but Jesus did the opposite. He came down to die for our sins. At a point when we deserved to be cursed we were given blessings beyond measure. Now it is our responsibility to speak blessings into lives of people who curse us.

By doing this you will prove yourself to be the citizens of the kingdom of God.

Do good to those who hate you
Those who hate you are going to do the worst things to you. They will work against your promotion in office. Inform lies about you to your superiors. They will tell all people who come to your office about how bad person you are. But you, you, treat them well.

There was man who would give a box of sweets to anyone who would talk bad or gossip about him. The secret behind this, I believe is this, the moment you do good when they show bad behaviour to you. They will stop doing bad to you. They will begin to wonder. I did wrong to them but they returned me with a good thing and how can I even now do anything bad against them.

Proverbs states this well on how to treat your enemy.
Pro 25:21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Pro 25:22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

Pray for them that despitefully use you
Oh well, we’ve all been there. We’ve been through times when people have used us for their personal benefits. We know we are being used but we feel powerless and weak to get out of such situation. We are trapped. But Jesus said, Pray for them that use you…not just use.. “despitefully use” the word despiteful means, contemptuous treatment. Imagine that!. Jesus is saying, pray for those who contemptuously treat you and use you for their personal benefit. In other words, they hate you…so they use you even more ruthlessly with hatred in their heart.!

Pray for such people. Why does Jesus say Pray instead of Love or bless them?
Yes, if you notice the previous points, Loving and blessing is already part of the whole package but Jesus adds one more to the list.. saying “Pray for them”. For such people the only transforming power can be the work of God.

What does prayer mean at this point? Why did Jesus use the word pray instead of love or blessing?
When Jesus said “Pray”. He said, don’t take the matters into your own hands but pray and allow God to work.
By praying you will show that you have father in heaven that listens to your prayers and petitions. You belong to the kingdom of heaven.

Pray for them that Persecute you
Ever been through persecution? Then you may know how difficult it is to pray for them at that point? Like a Prayer of blessing?

Perhaps if we were asked to pray so that the fire would come consume them alive…we may gladly pray…

And If we were asked them to sue them in court we would find the best Christian lawyer to get the punishment they deserve for persecuting you.

Persecution is not just limited to being tortured for the name of Christ. It can also mean a physical abuse or harm caused to you.

Matthew 5:38-42 talks on these lines about a persecution, i.e., someone who slaps you or abuses you. Jesus said, if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Generally, when someone slaps you on one cheek they will slap with the palm of their hand but when Jesus said show the other cheek also…that means when they slap you again they will use the other part of your hand to slap you – which is actually considered disgraceful in Israel.

Jesus says it clearly. Don’t return evil for evil but good for an evil act. The easiest way to do good for an evil act is pray for them. Don’t take matters into your own hands but pray and allow God to work in their lives.

The Reward
The point of forgiveness is this… that you may be called the children of God. Forgiveness is a virtue we have to master. Jesus forgave people who brought him to trial and hung him on the cross saying.. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) We ought to say the same thing. People who commit acts of evil against us, actually are not fully aware of what they do. Because sin blinds their eyes.. So we have to ask God to forgive them. When we do. We will be called the children of God. Because we imitate what God does. We forgive others just as He forgave our sins.

 

  1. Do not Hold a grudge after you’ve forgiven them.

We’ve heard people say. I forgive you but I don’t want to see your face again.! That’s not forgiveness at all…! That is only partial forgiveness. Partial forgiveness causes partiality or favouritism to creep into our life

If there were two people standing before you. One who is loving towards you and another who caused problems but you’ve forgiven…more like partial forgiveness!

Who will you be favourable to? To one who loves you or the one whom you’ve forgiven but still hold a grudge?

Usually, you will be favourable to the one who loves you and not so favourable to the one you forgave. Because past memories can haunt you and so you have not forgiven completely. So now, partiality creeps in. No matter what that person tries to do to.! You will always look on them with a bit of dislike. You will favour the one who loves you and treats you well.

The Bible clearly says in James 2:1, to not show partiality
Even in our passage, Mat 5:45, it goes on to say God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain both on the righteous and the unrighteousness

If we call ourselves the children of God but practice partiality, then we are deceiving ourselves. The verses goes on to say, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax collectors doing that?

Returning love for love gets you nowhere. You get no reward for such a action. Tax collectors, during those times, were considered as people who cheat people of their money. The repentance of Zacchaeus speaks for itself. How he repented and paid back all money he had charged double. Tax collectors were filthy rich and made money out of charging double or triple the amount of money that was required to be collected. Jewish people regarded them as the highest of sinners. They also practiced the same, Loving people who loved them. So Jesus said, if you love only those who love you… then you are practicing what the tax collectors practice. He gives them stern call for repentance from a life of double standards.

The verse continues, “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?”

In a fellowship, in a church setting we like to greet people whom we like to greet. We like to talk to people whom we like to talk to. We keep the rest away, ignore them or don’t even go to a place where they are. Jesus gives them a stern call saying… By doing so, aren’t you practicing what the pagans do? To the Jewish community, they considered pagans as someone outside their own Jewish community. They wouldn’t associate with such people easily but Jesus points out saying, Hey, You are practicing what they pagans are doing although you claim to be God’s chosen one.

 

  1. Set your eyes on being perfect

Here’s the cream of the whole passage. Jesus ends this portion of the command to love and forgive by saying this. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The greek work for “perfect” actually means “Complete”. Jesus is actually saying, “Be complete.”

Forgiving people who hurt you makes you a complete person.

James 1:2 Count it all joy my brethren when you fall into various temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of faith produces patience. But let patience have it’s perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

In other translations it says, so that you may be complete.!

God desires for us to complete, to be perfect. He wants us to grow to a point where our self is dead and he begins to live in our life. Even if anybody hurt us. We will be ready to forgive more than argue. When we reach that point of self-death and Christ living is us. We will be perfect, in other words complete, just as the heavenly father is complete.

That’s the power of forgiveness. It makes you a complete person. Lacking nothing. The beautiful thing is, when you are complete. It is hard for the enemy to shake you. The sorrows of the world will not put you down. No work of the enemy can harm you.

In Mat 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (NKJV)

Do you know which righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the Pharisee? The righteousness of loving people who hate you. Forgiving people that worked against you. That is a righteous act.

Pharisees were undoubtedly the most righteous people. They were evangelistic in nature. They were good at winning souls. But what they lacked was that they never forgave people so easily.

Maimonides one of their writers said, (Source: John Gill exposition of the Bible)

“A disciple of a wise man, or a scholar, whom a man despises and reproaches publicly, it is forbidden him to forgive him, because of his honour; and if he forgives him, he is to be punished, for this is a contempt of the law; but “he must revenge, and keep the thing as a serpent”, until the other asks pardon of him, and then he may forgive him.”

They were too self-righteous to see the forgiveness of God and understand what it means to love their enemy.!

The power of forgiveness is this…
You will only reach a Perfection in your life only when love your enemies and forgive those who hurt you.

Jesus said, be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect. That is our goal. Be perfect just as your father is perfect.

Let’s us strive towards to attain that perfection so that we may become people who lack nothing.

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