Compassion & Forgiveness 2
- Angry words are lightly spoken, Bitt’rest tho’ts are rashly stirred, Brightest links of life are broken, by a single angry word.
- The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. ...11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. (Ps. 103:9-13).
What a great comfort that the brightest of all links can never be broken! Repentance will always restore our relationship with God! This is where God expects an important transition. As we enjoy God’s forgiveness we must give as we have received. Our brethren must be given the same compassion we have received from God. Jesus warned us: “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Lk. 17:3-4).
If we want to be forgiven, we must be willing to forgive. “whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mk. 11:25-26).
Clearly our ability to forgive is as important to God as our ability to repent. The mercy we receive for the pain inflicted on God must be freely offered to those who do the same to us. The gentle attributes that make God forgiving are part of His image. If we are to reflect His image and likeness to others, we must become as He is: “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." (Col. 3:12-13).
There are many examples of such compassion in the Scriptures. Israel treated Moses shamefully. They murmured, complained, and caused him grief over and over again. Yet when God threatened to destroy them, Moses chose to intercede and beg for their forgiveness. His heart was too full of compassion, forgiveness and forbearance to desire anything but mercy for them. There was no broken link. Even after they rejected Moses and spoke of stoning him, he still interceded. (Num. 14:10-20; 16:44-46). Moses was always a friend - always forgiving and restoring.
Jesus revealed the great depths of His own compassion on the cross when He said: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34). They could not break this bright link even though they blindfolded, spat upon, reviled, mocked, scourged and nailed Him to a cross. He still wanted the relationship to be restored.
Stephen’s real “crime” was loving them enough to tell them the truth in hope of saving their souls. There was no good reason for their bitterness. Yet in the midst of a cruel and unjust death, Stephen’s feelings come through clearly: “falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).
As Paul summed up his treatment by the Jews, he said: “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” (1Cor. 4:12-13). No matter what they did to Paul, he continued to bless, endure and entreat. After many years of mistreatment, his own feelings were still like God’s: “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,” (Rom. 9:3). Are we striving to be like him as we are commanded? “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you." (Phil. 4:9).
In looking at these examples, are our own injuries at the hands of others so great we cannot do what the Lord plainly commanded? Can we justify any lack of compassion toward those who have spoken angry words and repented? Can we allow bitter anger toward friends or neighbors who have failed us in some way to simply go on year after year? Can we hold hard feelings, revile or speak evil of others after they have apologized and done all they can for a reconciliation? The answer is NO!
God has dealt with both sides of this issue. Our relationship with God is based on our relationship with others. Whether someone has something against us, or we have something against them, it must be forgiven.
If we are the cause of a “broken link”, we are commanded to repent, apologize, and resolve it. “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23-24).
If we are the victim of a “broken link”, we must seek to restore it. If we are still holding past actions against others, we are commanded to be forgiving. “whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mk. 11:25-26).
Conclusion. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive, Jesus responded with seventy times seven. This was not to set a limit, but to make it without limit. He then gave a parable. He spoke of a man who owed 10,000 talents (millions) who was owed 100 denarii (hundreds). The king forgave the millions, but this same servant would not forgive the hundreds. When the king heard this story, he punished him severely. Jesus ended the parable with these sober words. “So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.” (Mt. 18:35).
- If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Rom 12:18).