Wisdom of God’s forgiveness
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Isaiah 43:25
Devotional text: 1 John 1:9
In last week’s column, we looked at the teachings in the Old Testament concerning how God forgives us and how God shows us to forgive others.
When we forgive, we are letting go of hurt and resentful feelings, as well as feelings of vengeance. To hold onto such negative emotions within ourselves, even if we should forgive someone, is to build a wall where the hurt remains and reconciliation is difficult, if not impossible.
I ended the column by looking at Psalm 130:3-4, finding in its words the nature of God’s forgiveness toward us: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.”
As we understand these words, we come to the conclusion that to remember one’s sin, over and over, would be no forgiveness at all. To keep bringing up the same wrongdoing at various times, like during an argument in the future, especially an argument not based on the past wrongness, only serves to do two things: it keeps bitterness in the heart of the person who was wronged, and it continues to build that wall of unforgiveness, making reconciliation difficult.
Look at the lesson of God’s forgiveness. God wipes out our sins against him completely. Through him, we learn how to forgive others and continue our bond of love. If there is true asking and receiving of forgiveness between persons, just as between ourselves and God, we should be removing the sin from our thoughts and carrying on through love.
Today, I’d like to continue in the Old Testament, even as it points us to the new covenant of Christ in the New Testament.
The Book of Proverbs, which teaches us the wisdom given to King Solomon by God, has much to say concerning the right way to behave toward one another and the results that can happen when we fail to do that which is right.
Concerning quarrels, Proverbs 10:12 tells us this: “Hatred stirs up old quarrels, but love overlooks insults.”
Solomon is saying that when we are upset with one another, our minds will tend to bring up old feelings of hurt. When we allow this to happen, watch out! In such ways, friendships crumble.
As shown to us in Psalm 130, when an insult, or a fault between friends arises, it is through our love as friends that we are to forgive one another. We can do this more easily when we remember we are not perfect people and, yes, sometimes we do, say or act in a wrong or hurtful way.
However, it is God’s love living within us that helps us to “overlook” these problems that arise. Usually it is when someone is tired or frustrated, full of anxiety or overwhelmed, when things get said that should not be said.
These are the times we must be quick to ask and to give forgiveness, not allowing the situation to drag on. In such cases, the ability to forgive and to continue with one another is likened to God’s love, the love that does not keep a record of wrongs, but lets them go.
Proverbs 17:9 puts it this way: “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”
At other times, when there is deeper hurt, we tend to think about the problem, re-think about it and analyze it from various positions. It may take a while for reconciliation to happen in those circumstances.
Our God knows all of our circumstances in life. God knows what we have done that is good and what we have done that is not good; sometimes, our lives get complicated.
The Apostle Paul wrote to us so knowingly in Romans 7:18-20: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
What a mess we are in if this is the way we live our lives, always warring between what is good and right from God and what is wrongful and hurtful from our old sinful nature.
Yet, Paul gives us hope. Our hope comes from the Holy Spirit who lives within all believers.
Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free.”
Paul goes on to explain that through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we have salvation as offered by the atonement for sin by Jesus at the cross. Because of Christ’s act of salvation, we are no longer slaves to the inward sinful nature but are set free, as our hearts are now set on the desires of the Holy Spirit.
As Paul has explained to us, it is no longer the sinful nature that rules us once we become believers. Even though we are not perfect people, Christ was perfect and without sin. Through belief in him, we are free because we are forgiven. This is God’s teaching on forgiveness made possible through the love that rests inside of us through the Spirit.
The Prophet Isaiah, from the Old Testament, spoke often about the work of the coming Messiah. In Isaiah 43:25, he spoke these words as God’s prophet, words that describe how God forgives believers through Christ: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remember your sins no more.”
As we seek to follow God’s word, let’s remember to pray for help in forgiving one another. God has a wonderful way of turning bitterness into love.