forgive: to grant a pardon; to cancel or remit a debt, obligation or offence; to cease to feel resentment. (Webster’s Dictionary)
THE LOVE AND FORGIVENESS OF A WOUNDED DOG
A man hurled a stone at his dog. So terrific was the blow that the dog’s leg was shattered! Whining and limping the wounded animal came sadly to the man, fell at his feet, and licked the hand which had hurled the merciless stone! That’s what Christian love and forgiveness should be like. O, that more of God’s children were as loving and forgiving as that dog! (Knight’s Illustrations p 228)
Forgiveness is necessary because interpersonal relationships become strained or broken. Family members, friends, co‑workers, refuse to speak or interact with each other. Bitterness and hard feelings result in harsh words and actions; and sad to say that this occurs in the Family of God as well.
BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS: If you have not yet experienced it, don’t worry it will inevitably come your way. To all relationships there comes the inevitable crisis; someone is offended and the painful process of alienation begins. Attitudes quickly change, inappropriate words and actions follow, and the relationship becomes strained and possibly is ended. (There are, however, some relationships that should be ended. These include: ungodly and sinful relationships between believers and unbelievers; and any other relationship that would cause a believer to loose his/her testimony. Such endings, nevertheless, should not be conducted so as to cause emotional or physical hurt to the other party). In the Church‑Family one must be careful to maintain relationships; since broken or strained relationships lead to disgruntled and hurting members. Since we have been instructed in the Scriptures that each member is part of the “body”, and that when any “member” of the body hurts, the “whole body” feels the hurt, let us “strive to maintain the unity of the body” . We were earlier reminded that broken or strained relationships are sure to come, and do not normally begin by affecting the whole body at once. It begins with individual members and, like a cancer that is not surgically removed, it spreads rapidly until it consumes the whole body; and the results are predictable.
SYMPTOMS – Avoidance: long-time friends suddenly begin to avoid each other because of some conflict. After years of enjoying each other’s company, they now keep their distances. Irritability: sharp and harsh words and phrases are uttered between friends. Silence: a common response to a strained or broken relationship. Refusing to talk with each other is a way for some people to insulate themselves from any further pain; while for others it is a way to “get even”. Enlisting Allies: we usually recruit allies by giving only one view of the issue ‑ MY VIEW. Terrorism: this comes without warning with indirect and underhanded methods; and often destroys the innocent with the enemy. In the form of slanderous attacks, angry looks and words and worse of all physical attacks, and an individual’s character or reputation is destroyed.
REACTIONS – Ignore it: unfortunately, many of us respond in this way. As we are all aware; however, this will not make the problem disappear; it remains, and like a cancer it eventually consumes the relationship. Attack Persons: issues rather than persons should be attacked. Gossip: involving the wrong people and talking too much only complicates the issues. Cover it up: “Forgetting it”, “Put it behind us”, are great statements or actions as long as they express genuine reconciliation. Discard it: relationships are not disposable goods that can be thrown away when they are broken. If we are to be guided by the words of Paul to the Corinthian and Ephesian Churches, we cannot ignore, attack persons, gossip, cover up or discard our strained or broken relationships; because this is contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures and disobedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, there must be a “scriptural” way to mend a broken relationship.
RECONCILIATION – We are often led to believe that the “message of reconciliation” is reserved only for the unsaved; we should understand that this message is also very necessary to believers as well. The devil has done, and will continue to do everything he can, to sow the seed of discontent among believers in order to strain or break relationships and destroy our fellowship with each other and our Lord. Reconciliation is a change of relationship between individuals and God, and between offended individuals; and involves at least three elements: (1) Confession of sin to God and to others who have been offended. (2) Forgiveness by God and by those who have been offended. (3) The establishment of a new relationship between God and the offender, and between the offended individuals. A New relationship: when God forgives a repentant sinner He does not close the transaction at that point. His forgiveness does not only mark the end of the offence but also constitutes the beginning of a new “creation”. This new creation requires that a new behaviour be exhibited; that is, true repentance will bear the “fruit” that is appropriate, and this fruit always involves change. This change leads to an abandonment of the “old ways” and an establishment of a new relationship based on biblical principles: otherwise the individuals will revert to the “old ways” again. Forgive and Forget: forgiveness does not instantly wipe out the memory of the recent past. Nevertheless, forgiveness must be followed by forgetting as time progresses, otherwise true forgiveness has not taken place. Forgiveness means that we no longer dwell on the offence that has been forgiven, it is also the promise not to raise the issue again to the offender or to oneself . The person who said “I can forget and forgive, but I shall always remember it”, has far too many imitators. True forgiveness is not based on forgetfulness; nor are we to wait till time has worn away the sense of wrong, before we pardon a penitent offender. When we do forgive that should forever end the matter. Forgetfulness should follow forgiveness. Remembering wrongs benefits no one. If we have a sore finger we bind it up, and let it alone. Is there any use in removing the bandage ten times a day, and showing the hurt to everyone we meet? Constantly discussing a “wrong” does more hurt than suffering it; recollecting it is worse than receiving it. (Knight’s Illustrations p 234) (This is not a “covering up” reaction to a broken relationship).
Forgiveness First Is Granted, Not Felt – ; we are not instructed to wait until we “feel” forgiving, but that we are to forgive as soon as and as often as we are asked to do so. Neither does the Lord make any conditions for granting forgiveness upon the behaviour of the offender after forgiveness has been granted, but He rather bases the granting of forgiveness upon the request alone. It is the request, not the subsequent action, that should initiate the offended one to grant forgiveness. The disciples thought that it was a lack of faith why this was so difficult to do; but our Lord indicated that it was not a lack of faith, but a failure to exercise the faith that they had. It is not a lack of faith but a lack of obedience to our Lord’s command! This is hard work but necessary for every believer, and is also our duty to each other. Thus, faith and feeling are irrelevant to granting forgiveness; we must commit ourselves to the “hard task” of promising not to raise the matter of the offence again which is the essence of granting forgiveness. Conflict is inevitable but forgiveness is to be unlimited!! ; Whoever repeats…separates . Through slander he creates distrust that culminates in alienation and conflict.
CONCLUSION: : “Christians who care forgive one another”. Those that do not care exhibit an “unforgiving spirit” and create all kinds of problems for themselves and others. An unforgiving spirit is usually evident in: Corrupt Communication, ; things are said that should not be said. Grudges are held against each other. Inner Feelings : bitterness is to the heart what an infection is to the body. Inner feelings of bitterness lead to expressions of rage, anger, brawling slander and malice, and these are not the actions or expressions of those who “have the attitude of Christ” . Believers should always allow the “attitude of Christ” to influence every thought, word and action: the most important being “a forgiving spirit”. Any believer who refuses to forgive is destroying the bridge on which he may have to walk himself someday!
When we refuse to forgive others we put a barrier between ourselves and God, and between ourselves and others. Thus, believers who care, exhibit the essentials of a Forgiving Spirit, which are: Kindness/Tenderness God has expressed His kindness toward us in the person of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ . We were not deserving of this kindness but it was freely extended to us . In 2 Samuel 9:1‑13 we see a beautiful illustration of kindness expressed by David to the family of his worst enemy Saul. Again in this passage we may be lead to believe that this illustrates only the kindness of God, but it also illustrates the kindness that we should show to each other as members of God’s family. Let us remember that David had every right to completely destroy every last member of Saul’s family, for the full right of any sovereign king was to put to death all those who would cause a threat to his throne. David, however, displayed the attitude of Christ in his actions, and this is the example that each and every believer should imitate . Forgive in the same way as God has forgiven us in the Person of His Son; The basic Christian attitude. ; we need to “Bear with each other”: that is to – hold up or support each other; suffer, endure or tolerate each other; be patient with each other. Honesty ; it is wonderful when saints can be honest with each other in love. Go to the person that has committed the offence and honestly and humbly try to get things settled : “show him his fault”: in a forgiving manner: “take one or two others along”: NEUTRALS!! NOT ALLIES!! Do not appear to be “ganging‑up”: “if he refuses to listen”: as a pagan or tax collector does not mean he is completely cut‑off. However, heed the instruction of Rom.16:17!; 1 Jn.1:9>
How great it is to have a God who will forgive us at any time, no matter how often we sin against Him? Wouldn’t it be also rewarding if we His children would learn to be just as forgiving? <see Matt. 6:14-15>Caring Christians forgive one another. How much do you/I care? We forgive, not because anyone deserves it, but for Jesus’ sake.
Let us all seek to be like the dog that licked the hand of the one who has injured us so severely.