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Forgiveness Is a Force
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:19-23 (ESV)
There is much to unpack in this short passage. Jesus appears to His disciples for the first time after His resurrection. He commands peace to be with them. He commissions them. He releases the Holy Spirit to them. Finally, He instructs them on forgiveness. That is a lot for five short verses and there is much to plumb, but for this post we will begin with the last, forgiveness.
Forgiveness Is a Force
Forgiveness is something I know a little about, from both sides. I hope you do as well. It is a force, one that is so important that it is the very first thing Jesus instructed His disciples on after releasing the Holy Spirit to them. I do not believe that was a coincidence. There is a holy connection between the Holy Spirit and forgiveness. It is that powerful. After all, forgiveness was the purpose of Christ's mission. It is THE reason He came.
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The Power of Position
Yet, it can be hard for us to forgive. We are citizens of a world that loves to hold grudges of all manner and focus on getting even. That is the world's way, it isn't God's way. He sent Jesus here not just to save us but to forgive us as well, and to position us to forgive others. Jesus teaches His disciples this when He says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” They had positional power, granted by Jesus, to forgive or not forgive others because they were commissioned as His ambassadors to the world. Believers are in that same position. Think about that for a minute. We have the power to bless or condemn. The hard part for us, sometimes, is blessing those who condemn us. It is not the world's way, but it is God's way. Jesus was condemned yet forgave, and we are His ambassadors. When we do not forgive others, we reject His very purpose in coming to forgive us. We must remember, always, that we are not only citizens of this world but also citizens of Heaven, charged with heavenly responsibilities and graced with heavenly provision, including the provision of grace to others. Forgiveness is a heavenly force.
The Hardest Person to Forgive
For some of us, the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. We know what we've done and what we've become even when others do not. We can be very good at hiding things, but we cannot hide them from ourselves. We have the experiential knowledge of our sin, a knowledge that cannot be escaped. Overcomers know this condition well. They have faced it and overcome it through confession and repentance. The result? Forgiveness and freedom that no one should deny themself. If you are struggling with forgiving yourself then choose to trust God and the forgiveness He promises.
Forgiveness Opens a New Future
There are two primary reasons forgiveness is so important: it frees both parties from the past, and it is the beginning of hope and trust for what must follow. It is the gateway to healing, restoration, and renewal.1 Those are pretty good reasons.
We all experience circumstances that can distance relationships and separate us from those we care about, or present other difficulties that make life seem unfriendly at times. Some of these may be in our past and some in our present. These things happen. The question is: how will we respond? Will we choose the world's way, holding a grudge and seeking to get even, or will we release genuine forgiveness, setting ourselves free of anger and allowing others to choose freedom as well?
Try forgiveness. You may be surprised at what happens. After all, it is God's way.
Burkhalter, Ken. 2021. Even Me, Even You. Mobile, AL: Scrolls of Zebulon. https://tinyurl.com/wpyjktrs.