Now when I say F-word, I don’t intend to insult or offend, but to draw a parallelism. The F-word is a real word with a real meaning, yet most people who use it don’t understand what it actually means or don’t care. To them, it’s just part of the common vocabulary of the people they hang around most. Anyhow – in this case, the F-word I’m referring to is “Forgiveness”
Sunday, we started a new series on Forgiveness and we set up basecamp in Psalm 32. (listen here) In studying for this, I’ve come to some conclusions that I hadn’t considered before as I read and re-read passages that I’d read hundreds of times before. Now we spent some time looking at what forgiveness isn’t – it isn’t easy or just apologizing, it’s not excusing or accepting sin, it’s not forgetting (despite the saying ‘forgive and forget’), not a feeling and it’s not primarily for our benefit (when we forgive). Forgiveness is simply a promise not to use someone’s past against them, and you can make that promise whether or not you feel like it the same way you can keep it whether or not you feel like it.
That promise is available, but not guaranteed. This was by far the most troubling thought for many – that forgiveness is conditional. Look at Ephesians 4:32 where Paul writes “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Our forgiveness of others (believers here) is to be modeled after God’s forgiveness of us through Christ. Since that’s the case, we know that all who call on the Lord will be saved, they’ll be forgiven, but there are some who call, who won’t repent, who won’t believe and they won’t be forgiven. Not because forgiveness wasn’t offered, but because the conditions weren’t met.
Another example: Luke 17:3-4 “Pay attention to yourselves! IF your brother sins, rebuke him, and IF he repents, forgive him, and IF he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Well what if he doesn’t? Then there’s no forgiveness for him. No need for you to feel guilty or to ‘forgive him anyway,’ because you can’t. You can be willing, but you can’t actually forgive someone who refuses to admit they’re wrong (confess), intend to never do it again (repent) and desires your forgiveness.
When Jesus prayed in Luke 23:24 “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” He wasn’t forgiving them. If all He had to do was say “I forgive you” why was He hanging on the cross about to die? He was making things right with God saying in effect, “I’m willing to forgive those who will admit they were wrong – Father, please bring them to that point.”
Romans 2:4 says it’s that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” and the prayer Jesus said was answered after His death when Peter was speaking to the people at Pentecost. He said, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified,(notice the rebuke) both Lord and Christ.” and the people responded “what shall we do?” and Peter said, “REPENT and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” [see Acts 2:36-38] Forgiveness came AFTER repentance. It was conditional then, and it’s conditional now.