Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Greatest Gift

by Tim Howard

Today is December 1 and it doesn’t merely suggest a new month has begun, it reminds us of a great celebration, which is only 25 days away.
Christmas is all about giving! When I consider that statement and contemplate the greatest gifts I’ve personally received over the years, FORGIVENESS ranks highest without a doubt. 
At the heart of Christianity you will find the message of forgiveness and it’s more than simply saying: “I forgive you.” It may be conveyed in words but it must come from the heart. Matt. 18:5 confirms this understanding. Forgiveness is something Jesus ‘does for’ us and not something he merely ‘says to’ us.
A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the suffering with him. “Have you forgiven the Nazis?" he asked his friend. "Yes," the friend replied. “Well, I haven't” stated the first man. “I'm still consumed with hatred for them.” “In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.” 

This story affirms that those who choose not to forgive, by default, choose to live in a self-imposed prison where anger, bitterness, and despair control their lives. The price you pay for not forgiving is exorbitant. In a parable recorded in Matt 18:21-35 we find 3 reasons we need to learn forgiveness.

1. You must learn to forgive others because God has forgiven you! The parable talks about a servant who was so far in debt, he could never get free. The king, however, showed mercy and offered forgiveness with no strings attached. It was free gift. What a king!

There is a parallel in this parable.  The Bible says I owe a debt to God and you do too.  "All have sinned."  The Bible says the debt is so big I can never repay it on my own and neither can you.  But God has chosen, in His love, to forgive us, wipe the slate clean, cancel the debts and say, "Let's start over."  That's the good news!

God expects me to do to others what He has done for me. He has forgiven my sins and I am to forgive other people.  

2. You must learn to forgive because resentment makes you miserable! Like the former inmate of that Nazi concentration camp who wouldn’t forgive, his life remained dismal. When you fail to forgive, God doesn't have to lock you up in jail.  We do it to ourselves.  We lock ourselves in a jail of torment and pain.  We rehearse the hurt over and over and it gets bigger and bigger and continues to hurt us long after it's happened.  There are millions of people who are imprisoned and enslaved by anger and anxiety and they are tormented by resentment, year after year.  The forgiveness of Christ is the key to unlock the jail.  It can set you free.  

3. You must learn to forgive because you will need it in the future!
If you're going to live the rest of your life in perfection you don't need to forgive anybody else. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, however,  "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" - it means: God, will forgive you as much as you forgive the people around you.  Is that something you really want to pray?

Is there someone you need to forgive? As you move through the Christmas season and consider the gifts you want to give, why not give some the gift of forgiveness? And while you are at it, why not forgive yourself! 

No comments:

Post a Comment