Forgive, Regardless of Your Feelings
By Kevin Pauley
"Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he
repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in
a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,'
you must forgive him." - Luke 17:3-4 HCSB
If there was ever a man who should rightfully have been bitter, it was Joseph. He had been scorned by his brothers, manhandled, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, lied about, falsely imprisoned and forgotten. Yet, Joseph found it within himself to forgive his brothers and treat them kindly.
Jesus commanded us to forgive others. Forgiveness is a command to be obeyed, not a suggestion to be considered. It is to be granted even when it is not necessarily felt. Our feelings are not a necessary ingredient of obedience.
Many try to excuse themselves from the mitzvah of forgiveness, but Jesus told us that we are to forgive our brother if he asks for it, even seven times in a day! When our brother is caught in wrong-doing, those of us who are spiritual should gently rebuke him and pursue whatever path is required to restore him to his former righteous state.
Notice that Jesus stressed the results rather than the cause. If an offending Christian says he is repentant, our Master plainly expects the offended brother to forgive him.
We don't have to wait for evidence of repentance in order to determine whether or not one's repentance is real. If we are to forgive seven times in a day, there is no way for us to verify the fruit of the other's repentance in that space of time. In fact, all the evidence would seem to point in the opposite direction. Yet, Jesus demanded that we forgive upon verbal testimony alone.
The disciples replied, "Lord, give us more faith!" At first, their request sounds quite reasonable to us maybe even pious, but the Lord was unsympathetic. He responded that if they even had as much faith as the grain of a mustard seed, they would be able to do miraculous things.
He then gave them a practical example. A servant was working out in the field all day. Upon returning at the end of the day, tired and hungry, he was told to clean up, cook some food and serve his master. He did so, in spite of his natural hunger, and was not thanked. Why? Because he did not deserve thanks for merely doing his duty.
Thus, it is clear that forgiveness is a "duty." It is commanded. It is no more hypocritical to obey the Lord in granting forgiveness against one's feelings than for the slave to prepare and serve the meal against his feelings. Nor is it meritorious to do one's duty. "In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, 'We are good-for-nothing slaves; we've only done our duty.'"
Written by Pastor Kevin Pauley
Kevin Pauley is a minister and a freelance writer living in Illinois with his wife and five children.