It`s hard to believe that Easter is upon us yet again, that wonderful occasion when we get to celebrate these great events that are so central to our precious Faith. It is that time in which we are reminded that our relationship with Christ is only made possible because of the wonderful gift of God`s Forgiveness. The immediate implication is evident from the Lord`s Prayer as we often pray:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” The assumption is clearly that we are to forgive in the same way that the Father forgives us, which is upon true confession. In stark contrast, renown author, Jane Austin`s idea of forgiveness portrays quite the opposite to our understanding from God`s Word concerning forgiveness:
“You ought surely to forgive them as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing!” Pride and Prejudice
Clearly, the lack of having received forgiveness is evidenced by the inability to extend it to others. The writer to the Hebrews emphasizes the obvious outcome, that of resentment,
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 Devotional author, Os Hillman in reflecting on this verse says: “We are given plenty of opportunities to grow bitter from relationships that bring hurt and pain. The writer cautions us against this because he knows that a bitter root grows and grows until it eventually defiles many others through a wake of bitterness. If bitterness is allowed to take root, we become imprisoned to it. God’s grace will no longer have as great an effect in our lives. We become ineffective, insensitive, and spiritually dead.”
Ironically, Jesus comes under fire from his critics when he entertains the beautiful acts of gratitude from a woman that He had previously encountered, recorded in Luke 7, the bottom line the master says, is recorded in verse 47: “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus was intent on showing her love offering in response to her many sins of which she was well aware as she was grateful for their remission. This raises a question that remains begging in this regard. Recently in the conclusion of a message, I asked this provocative question: “Is forgiveness unconditional?!” I for one, have always assumed this but as I mentioned on that occasion, if we think a little deeper we come to realize that God does not automatically forgive upon our realization of sin in our lives. His forgiveness is directly dependent on our sincere confession and evidenced by our repentance (turning away) from that sin, thereby showing our true contrition.
Is it correct then to assume that those that have not sought our forgiveness for an offense towards us or are even aware of their wrongdoing, let alone remorseful, are not to be forgiven?
According to the biblical condition of forgiveness i.e. confession/repentance, in one sense, no you don’t have to forgive them since they haven’t asked for it, but I do need allow the Lord to free me from resentment and bitterness as Hillman warns against. In another sense, you really are forgiving the offender as you hand them to Jesus, the righteous judge and allow His grace to reign in the situation. It is so important to remember however that when talking about Christians this does not mean that I need to ensure that I have no unconfessed sin at the point of death to avoid coming under the judgment of God. By no means, because when I asked for God`s forgiveness as a sinner coming to Christ, in one sense all of my sins, past present and future were washed clean because of the finished work of Christ, so that I am no longer under condemnation (Roman 8:1). Of course, this does not mean that I keep on sinning with no confession, but it does mean that I live in the freedom that Christ has bought for me (Romans 6:1). A final leading question perhaps in closing: Is God`s love unconditional? Absolutely and without any doubt, as the Scriptures tell us repeatedly that his love is independent and unaffected by even our lack of loving response; for that is his very nature as John reminds us, “God IS love!” While He hates our sin, His love remains unchanged as it is His own loving kindness that even leads us to repentance.
Join us this coming weekend as we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus on Friday and Sunday morning at 10:30, on Easter Sunday we will also be hosting a baptismal service, to the glory of our great God and King!
Yours in His Service,