Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Forgiving the Inexcusable

(Sioux Falls, South Dakota)

  • This past Sunday I preached out of John 13:18-31. It's the moment when Jesus is hosting the Passover meal for his disciples. Judas makes his choice to betray Jesus. "Betrayal," in this context, means: one who has all along professed to be on the side of Jesus now acts against Jesus. "Acting against Jesus" is not merely a physical thing that leads to Jesus' physical crucifixion, it also includes acting against or contrary to the Mission of Jesus and the way Jesus brings this about. To betray Jesus is to go against all He is and does and teaches.

    The result, in Jesus, is that He is "deeply troubled." His soul is agitated, like an "agitator" in a washing machine that goes back and forth. He is grieved.

    God gets grieved. We can grieve God. In Ephesians 4:30 we are encouraged not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God." In verses 25-32 we have a partial list of things that cause God to grieve. It grieves God when we...
  • are not truthful
  • sin when we are angry

  • steal

  • do not share with others

  • talk in unwholesome ways

  • are bitter within

  • have raging, uncontrollable anger

  • slander other people

  • are unkind and non-compassionate to others

  • do not forgive others of what they have done to us

This last thing is huge. Unforgiveness is unacceptable in the Kingdom of God. C.S. Lewis writes, in his essay "On Forgiveness": "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." Forgiveness lies at the very heart of all that Jesus is, stands for, and has done. To not forgive others is, essentially, to betray Christ, to be anti-Christ. An unforgiving heart is a heart of darkness.

What is it to forgive someone for what they have done to you? It means: to cancel the debt that they owe you. When we forgive others it means they are no longer indebted to us; they don't owe us anything anymore. To forgive others does not mean we trust them now. We may or may not. But it does mean to release them from indebtedness, which is freedom for them but for us as well. When real forgiveness happens we don;t lie in bed at night thinking of ways to make them pay.

Why forgive someone else? For starters - because of what God has forgiven about us. I know that when I think about this it's easy for me to say, if God has forgiven me of all the stuff I have thought and done, then who am I not to extend this same forgiveness to others. To have a forgiving heart, and to walk in forgiveness, is freedom.