The following post is written by Andrea Whyte. Andrea is a member of Seven Mile Road Church.
When I was asked beforehand to pray after the second service sermon, I agreed because I thought I’d be able to keep my composure the second time around. The topic was forgiveness and the sermon had brought me to tears during the first service. However, as the Holy Spirit continued to reveal truth about forgiveness, I broke down again.
There was a moment in the sermon where my self-centered, pompous heart was abased in view of God’s sacrificial love and generous mercy towards me. “Have you ever tasted God’s forgiveness?” the preacher asked. As I grappled with that question, I realized that there was a disconnect between how I viewed God’s mercy toward me and how unwilling I was to give forgiveness to others.
I admit, I felt a sense of satisfaction and gratefulness upon hearing the reasons we don’t forgive. I heard my reasons listed and within that brief moment there was a sense of validation. Yesss, you see – the pain is too great. Yesss, I have fears they will hurt me again, so I have to protect myself. Yesss, they need to feel the brunt of what they’ve done in some way before I forgive. Yes, yes, yes. How can I forgive with all these factors at play? How can I forgive without them begging a little? They should not get off that easy. Even in the story the servant pleaded and then the King had pity (Matt 18:26-27). I deserve a little pleading myself, if only to massage my bruised heart.
With only me and the offender in view, choosing not to forgive seemed justifiable. They created the problem, not me. I’m the one sinned against. So, the burden of making things right falls on them. Yes, I know I make mistakes too and can contribute to wrongdoing. Yet, my sin is not as great as the damage they have caused. At first glance, this seemed right and true. However, when I examine Jesus’ story, I see a more complete picture.
Though appalled by the unforgiving servant’s behavior, I realized my actions are just like that wicked servant. In light of Jesus’ story, both the unforgiving servant and I have been forgiven much, yet have not forgiven. WICKED is the term the master uses to describe him (vs.32). That thought left a strong mental dissonance within me. I asked myself, “Am I really wicked?” No. I don’t feel wicked. Maybe really, really bad, even awful at times, but wicked?
The sermon’s main point “Forgiven people, forgive people” stood out to me making it clear that I’ve fallen short in this area. I know of Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross and His great mercy to me. Yet it wasn’t impacting me as it should. He took my sins upon Himself, had compassion to the point of bloodshed and death for me, and yet I’m withholding mercy from another? How ungrateful! To that end, I had to weep. I am not endeavoring to forgive as Christ forgave me. Though hard to admit, yes, I was acting just like that wicked servant.
With that in mind, the words to this song then resound at every refrain.
I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean
Singing – how marvelous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be
How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
After the sermon, as we came to the close of that song, my haughty heart had been pummeled. Christ does not treat me as my sins deserve (Psalm 103:10)! Not only did He forgive my debt and redeem my soul from death – He is gracious, abounding in love, and continues to fill my life with good things (Psalm 103: 4-5, 8). I had not pleaded with Him at all and yet He went above and beyond for me. The thought of what Christ had done swelled within and I couldn’t help but cry out that morning “Thank you, Jesus!”.
When I think about the endless amount of offenses that come against God not just from me but from all of us and yet how He forgives – I am truly amazed. I know my forgiveness will always wane in comparison with His. Yet, this is my hope from here on out – that I would remember the richness of His forgiveness and it would really spur me to continually choose to forgive.
A few days after that Sunday, I reached out to a family member to forgive an offense that happened over two years ago. Back then I had not plundered the depths of God’s forgiveness to be able to extend genuine and generous forgiveness to another. I’m grateful to God things are different now. A weight was lifted following that conversation and we are on the road to reconciliation.
What about you? Can you truly say that you have tasted God’s forgiveness? If you realize, like I did, that your life does not bear witness to that, would you today ask Christ for the grace to continually forgive from your heart?
Below are some additional resources that helped me, and I hope will help you too.