Providence Classical Christian School exists to cultivate and nurture virtue in children. Each month Providence focuses on a couple of virtues. This month one of these virtues is “forgiving,” which is defined as “releasing someone’s sin, never to bring it up again.” What a crucially important lesson to learn early in life!
In both Grammar School and Upper School assemblies this week, I had the opportunity to reflect on the practice of forgiving others, and I thought it would be helpful for you as parents to hear the same message (at least the fuller version I presented to the Upper School). So, I’m sharing with you here the message I shared with them. I believe this is truly one of the most impactful things any of us can take to heart and live out.
Our virtue for this month is “forgiving,” which means “releasing someone’s sin, never to bring it up again.” This is one of the most important things you will ever be called to do – to forgive other people when they sin against you. I want to share three questions and answers with you, but first a couple of thoughts.
First, we are all sinners and we sin against each other all the time. We offend each other, we hurt each other’s feelings, we speak hurtful words, and we get our own feelings hurt. Sometimes it’s little things and sometimes it’s a big thing, but without doubt, every day, we sin against each other and feel the hurt of others’ sins. This shouldn’t surprise us because the Bible reminds us that we are all sinners and are lost in our sins apart from Christ. When Adam fell, we fell not just out of right relationship with God but also with each other.
And that means, second, that the good news of Jesus Christ is the answer to our problems with one another. God has made a way for us in Christ to be right with Him and also right with each other. He forgives us of our sins, and then, in Christ, He enables us to forgive others and live in peace with them, despite how they may offend us. So the gospel of Christ is the answer not just to being right with God but also to getting right and staying right with our neighbor, too.
So, question and answer number one:
Why should I forgive others when they sin against me?
Because my sins are great and Jesus forgives them all.
The Bible says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). We are not to forgive others because we feel like it or because we think someone deserves forgiveness. Instead, the Bible calls us to forgive others the way God has released us from our own sins in Christ. My sins are great, and God has forgiven them all, so how could I hold someone else’s sin against them? It’s the grace of Jesus that teaches us to forgive others.
Question and answer number two:
Why does Jesus forgive my sins?
Jesus loves to make the Father’s mercies abound to sinners who trust in Him.
Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. And now He invites us to join Him to make the Father’s mercies abound by forgiving others the way He has forgiven us – freely, sacrificially, lovingly.
And finally, question and answer number three:
What if I refuse to forgive others?
Jesus taught us that only those who forgive are those who are forgiven.
For example, Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:21-35 reminds us that God’s forgiveness of our sins should motivate us to forgive those who offend us. We should never be like the man who was forgiven much but then refused to release the man who owed him a little. God is speaking to us through the words of the king in the parable, who said, “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” The purpose of this story was to illustrate to Peter that he should be ready to forgive his brother seventy times seven, not a measly seven times.
It may be easy to forgive and forget when someone’s sin against us didn’t hurt that much or when the person who hurt us feels sorry for what they did. But what about the times when the sin hurt a lot and the other person doesn’t care that he or she hurt us? That will be when our faith in Christ and the gospel gets tested.
Forgiving others is a daily discipline we must enter into. We must make the decision daily to forgive others of small things so that we will be trained to forgive the big offenses. And we must remember, daily, the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us to forgive us of our sin – the grace of His cross is magnificent!
Finally, we read in Numbers 6 that God gave a blessing for His people: the Aaronic blessing, which reads, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” The gift of peace that God gives comes as we learn to forgive one another over and over again.
Let’s ask the Lord to keep us from bitterness or revenge or hardness of heart. Let’s learn to say “I forgive you,” and grow to be more and more like Jesus.