Our Greatest Need

Ernest Hemingway begins his story, Capital of the World with this story.

"Madrid is full of boys named Paco, which is the diminutive of the name Francisco, and there is a Madrid joke about a father who came to Madrid and inserted an advertisement in the personal columns of El Liberal which said: PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA and how a squadron of Guardia Civil had to be called out to disperse the eight hundred young men who answered the advertisement. (Hemingway)."

Hemingway might joke about a father and son being reconciled but I know of another Father, a perfect Father, who has sent news that “all is forgiven”. And for centuries people have turned out to see if the news is true. I couldn’t believe the news when I first heard it. And continue to marvel at its truth today. But it is true. It’s absolute, 100%, true. Could it be that our greatest need in this life is to find release from our past mistakes, crimes, sins, and errors that have taken us from the Garden and placed us in a fallen world?

 I want us to understand what a powerful phrase is before us today. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.We may have learned the words debt or trespasses but the meaning behind both is “sin”. Dr. Smedes describes it as being at the center of Christianity. “There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it (Lewis 110).”

Dr. John Piper goes even farther when he says Jesus took this one expression of love and made it a condition of the future grace of God’s ongoing forgiveness (Piper 253). One cannot have forgiveness poured out into their hearts and lives if they remain full of bitterness, hurt and grudges. Consider Hebrews 12:14, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

What Is Forgiveness

Godly forgiveness differs from the world’s sense of forgiving. What parent has not commanded their kid, “Tell them you’re sorry”? We are usually satisfied with the mumbled ‘sorry’ from the kid. Godly forgiveness, that which Jesus gives is, off-the-charts different.” C.S. Lewis talks about our right to forgive someone who has done something to us, like stepped on our toe or robbed us. But, you see in the Gospels that Jesus does something different. Jesus, tells someone that they’re forgiven without consulting with those who were injured by the man’s sin. “He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended (Lewis 57).”

Our forgiving others is our attempt to live out Jesus’ ‘law of love’. It is living the example of Christ and a characteristic of the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Forgiveness is also a virtue for men and women,

“Good sense makes one slow to anger,                                                                                                        and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

It keeps Satan from gaining a foothold in our lives, (see 2 Corinthians 2:10-11) and as we read in Matthew 6:14-15, it allows for God to forgive us.

What Isn’t Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not easy. To forgive others and the hurt they have brought upon us or others is a journey that takes a lifetime not a 12-step program. C.S. Lewis, writing after World War 2 offered, “

"When you start mathematics, you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children… for something have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment (Lewis 110).

Dr. Lew Smedes, whom I had at Fuller, reminds us that forgiving involves release, letting go but that we aren’t immediately healed the hurt and/or injury takes time. It doesn’t mean we instantly become best buddies and trust someone who hurt us. Likewise, forgiveness does not overlook the sin. We have a right to expect justice and restitution under the law. It also does not demand an apology (Smedes) (Petersen).

Moving Toward Forgiveness

Here are some bullet points to help us deal with this topic and start practicing it. First, get it into our heads that there is a big, huge, monumental difference between how the world understands and practices forgiveness and how God does it.

Take a good hard look at who you need to forgive is the second step. Is it a person, family, company, nationality or race? Maybe it’s a problem with a deep-seated hatred for someone that you need to forgive. I want you to notice that I didn’t say anything about whether they had sinned against you? That fact doesn’t matter to God.

The next step is to release these sins to God. In doing this we release, into God’s hands, any right we have for vengeance. Yes, we may demand justice but NOT vengeance. Why? Because all sin is ultimately against God and God alone can bring lasting vengeance. Also, our demand for vengeance is a testimony to a life still focused on “my rights” and “my life” and shoves under the rug the fact that we claim to follow Christ who has, made us a new creation, and, according to John 3:16, which declares that God loved the world and it was His pleasure and purpose to have His Son, Jesus come and die for the sins of this world.

Our question is whether we’re willing to let God’s Love win? Let us pray.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. The First Forty-Nine Stories. London: Arrow, 2004. Print.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Glasgow: Fount Paperbacks, 1977. Print.

MacArthur, John. Alone with God. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2011. Print.

Petersen, Randy. "4 Misconceptions About Forgiving Others." American Bible Society. n.p., 2015. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.

Piper, John. Future Grace. New York: Multnomah Books, 2012. Print.

 Smedes, Lewis B. The Art of Forgiving. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. Print.

 

Bibliography

Hemingway, Ernest. The First Forty-Nine Stories. London: Arrow, 2004. Print.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Glasgow: Fount Paperbacks, 1977. Print.

MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2011. Print.

Petersen, Randy. "4 Misconceptions About Forgiving Others." American Bible Society. n.p., 2015. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.

Piper, John. Future Grace. New York: Multnomah Books, 2012. Print.

Smedes, Lewis B. The Art of Forgiving. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. Print.

Smedes, Lewis B. Forgive and Forget. New York: HarperOne, 2007. Print.

Star, Tamara. "7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People." HuffPost. n.p., 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.