And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. 25 "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."
Many times we look to this story for insight into faith yet Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching. The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth. Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks. They required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonable. If we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom. Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matt 18:21-35
Paul would later write that we should model forgiveness because of Christ and his work in us. He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ. James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13
With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive. As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment. As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy. It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life. All relationships has great possibility of offenses. Yet there is a way to live above the fray.
We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving.
- Vengeance – We have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt.
- Self-protection – We build a wall so that the offender no longer has access.
- Manipulation- Victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity.
All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness. Our life becomes consumed by the offence. Unforgiveness is described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe. In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.
The following is a list of some of the destruction unforgiveness causes.
· It requires us to desire ill to befall another.
· It requires us to determine another’s value.
· It places our life under increased scrutiny. Places us under judgment.
· It affects all of our relationships.
· The future is controlled by past hurts.
· Bitterness is seeded and grows in our souls.
· It demands loyalty of others to our point of view.
· You can’t be in agreement with God’s purpose.
· Holds us prisoner to circumstance we have no power to change.
· Causes physical harm to our bodies.
Do you see any of these attitudes in your thought life? If so consider the advantages of forgiveness.
· Sets us free from bitterness.
· Allows us to identify with Christ and comprehend His love for us.
· Sets us free from a vindictive spirit.
· Health for our current relationships.
· Freedom from past hurts.
· Frees us to love unconditionally.
How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves? First we examine our thought life. Do we review an offence over and over again? Do we have fantasies of vengeance? Are we judgmental? Second we evaluate our current relationships. Do we hold people at a distance? Do we tend to keep score? Do we justify our actions towards others? Do we harbor a grudge? All of these are symptoms of unforgiveness. Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart. If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.
How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us? It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God. Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you. Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you. Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you. Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself. He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross. Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life. Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness. Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development. Ask for the Holy Spirits help and repent of bitterness and resentment. Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.