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Do Yourself A Favor - Forgive

Over the years I have often heard (and used) the expression, "We need to go back to the Bible." I understand the sentiment behind that phrase and agree that much progress could be made in moral and spiritual life and in finding doctrinal unity between believers in Jesus if we forsook the many layers of human opinions, teachings, and practices and just "go back to the Bible," restoring it to its rightful place of preeminence in authority in all things moral and religious. But a number of years ago I heard one preacher talking about evangelism — and he grabbed my ears when he said that in that area we can't go back to the Bible because we have never caught up with it! His point was that we have a long way to go in restoring the evangelistic zeal of the early church on the pages of ACTS (Acts 5:42; 8:4; 17:6, etc.).

There is another area we very clearly need to "catch up"with the Bible, and may, at last, be doing so —in understanding if not always in application. I am referring to the need to have a forgiving spirit instead of stockpiling anger and resentment and bitterness in our hearts toward real or perceived offenders. We all know what Jesus preached/practiced about forgiveness. He often taught His disciples the necessity of forgiving if they wanted to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:35, etc.). And from the cross Jesus prayed for His enemies, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Lest anyone think it was easy for Jesus to forgive, we need only remind ourselves He was in a torturous, awful situation, physically and spiritually, even as this prayer fell from His lips — all so that His Father might, indeed, because of the cross, be able to forgive their sins (and our's, too). So, for 2,000 years Christians have known and taught that we ought to forgive, even if we have not always practiced it as well as we have preached it. But we are, in this marvelous age of research, at least catching up to the Bible in understanding why it is so important and beneficial to forgive. Turns out the forgiver benefits just as much if not more that the offender needing forgiveness! We may think we punish an offender when we refuse to forgive, but in reality we only punish ourselves. As Ann Landers said, "Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head" (The Washington Post, 5/19/1988). Thus, when we forgive someone we do ourselves a favor! Lewis Smedes was a respected religious author and ethicist who wrote much about forgiveness. He noted, "The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness . . . When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us" (quoted by Philip Yancey in What's So Amazing About Grace; pp 99-100). Modern medical research is at last catching up with what the Bible has been telling humans for thousands of years — forgiving others is not only one of the holiest things a person can ever do but also one of the healthiest! Do you need a favor? Do yourself a big one and forgive anyone who needs it from you. If you do, at least one person will be set free/healed: YOU! And perhaps the one who offended and hurt you, too.

"Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:15).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ