Part 6 on FORGIVENESS
By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross
Sometimes we’re the one who needs to be forgiven. Through repentance and a saving faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven of all our sins, past, present and future and allowed in God’s presence for eternity in Heaven. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t need to seek the forgiveness of others when we’ve messed up.
You borrowed entry fees from three friends this year that knew you were struggling. You won the team roping twice but never paid anyone back.
You got a message from your traveling partner’s girlfriend on Snapchat. She was ticked with him and wanted a sympathetic ear. That sympathetic ear went a lot further and he found out she was cheating on him with you. No one has spoken in months.
Matthew 5:23-24 If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
These are detailed verses with a lot that can be taught and understood, especially if we were to back up all the way toward verses 21 and 22 where Jesus talks about murder and anger against our brothers.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the time that pushed rules and laws as the way to be right with God, often using those rules to hold power over people. Jesus, who came to give us all a way to be reconciled with God and forgiven of our sins, was challenging their power. He was putting loving others ahead of everything else.
When it came to offerings, the Pharisees valued the rules most in making sure the offerings were made and all the rules of presenting them were followed.
Jesus made some shocking statements here suggesting the condition of a person’s heart mattered more than the offering, saying a person should leave that offering if he knew of any sin he had committed against someone that had gone unaddressed or not forgiven. Jesus cares much more about the condition of our hearts than the rules we follow and wants us to make right by those we’ve wronged.
In the entry fee and cheating examples, very real situations most of us have seen or encountered, Jesus is saying the person who owes the money or who has messed up his buddy’s relationship, needs to do what he can to be reconciled with his brother.
With the money owed, possibly the best thing he could do is pay it back, with interest if that’s what it takes to make it right. It might be as simple as apologizing and the guys he owes the money to simply letting it go.
With the cheating situation, it could be an apology, it could be an attempt to show you could be trusted again and are truly repentant of your part in what had happened.
Bottom line, Jesus is telling us if we know there is someone who we have wronged, we need to make that right before presenting ourselves to God.
We absolutely understand that when we have a saving faith in Jesus, that we have believed Jesus was the son of God who died to take the punishment meant for our sins, repented to God and asked to be forgiven, that God will in fact forgive us for past and any future mistakes. Our place in Heaven is not at stake because, even after we were saved, we messed up like these examples.
But Jesus is telling us how important it is that we make situations right with people who we have given a reason to be angry with us.
We can’t control their responses but Jesus wants us to be certain we have done whatever we can to be forgiven.
It then falls on that other person to offer the forgiveness that Jesus tells us we have to give to others, especially considering as followers of Christ, we have been forgiven for all of our sins—all of them, no matter what we have done or others have done to us.