By David Faust
Heroes of mercy described in the Bible showed such amazing grace to others that I find it hard to imagine myself doing what they did. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. How could anyone forgive such a life-altering injustice? But years later, instead of holding a grudge, Joseph saw the Lord’s hand at work. He concluded that despite his brothers’ evil intentions, God had used the whole situation for good (Genesis 50:20). Or what about Stephen? While enraged religious leaders pelted him with rocks, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Be honest. Would you have been so gracious? What does it cost to forgive?
Forgiveness costs us pride.
Forgiveness requires us to push back on our egos and let go of our self-importance. Forgiveness asks us to let others off the hook when we have the right to keep them dangling there. It demands that we give up our desire for revenge and let God be the judge and jury, when we would prefer to wear the judicial robe ourselves.
Forgiveness costs us comfort.
Strangely, it’s possible to grow so accustomed to existing in a state of hostility toward others that we almost prefer living that way. Pardon requires an uncomfortable change in our disposition. An unholy part of us would rather wallow in bitterness than engage in the hard work of reconciliation. It takes effort to stop clinging to the past and live graciously in the present moment.
Forgiveness cost Jesus his life.
We can be sure of this: Whatever forgiveness costs us, it cost the Lord a lot more. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). The sinless Christ is our “merciful and faithful high priest” who made “atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). He became our scapegoat, carrying our sins so far away that they would never return or be counted against us. The more we appreciate the sacrificial grace Jesus has displayed toward us, the more grace we can find to share with others.
So we forgive. Even when it doesn’t come naturally. Even when it’s hard work. Even when it’s an act of the will and our emotions push against it.
We forgive for others’ sake so they will taste God’s unmerited mercy. We forgive for our own sake so we will be free from the burden of bitterness. George Herbert was right: “He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass.” We forgive for the church’s sake so broken relationships won’t splinter our unity and weaken our witness to a watching world. We forgive because Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). We forgive because, as someone observed, “An ounce of apology is worth a pound of loneliness.”
Most of all, we forgive for the Lord’s sake—to honor him, thank him, and imitate him. Forgiveness cost Jesus the cross, and that’s a price we could never match.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
|Feb. 15||M.||Hebrews 2:10-17||Perfect Atonement|
|Feb. 16||T.||Hebrews 3:1-6||Appointed for Atonement|
|Feb. 17||W.||Romans 3:21-26||Completed Atonement|
|Feb. 18||T.||Exodus 30:1-10||Preparation and Atonement|
|Feb. 19||F.||Leviticus 8:30-36||Obedience and Atonement|
|Feb. 20||S.||Leviticus 16:1-10||Sin Offering for Atonement|
|Feb. 21||S.||Leviticus 16:11-19||A Clean Slate|
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © 2011, unless otherwise indicated.