The Lord Jesus foresaw every means satan and the father of darkness might use to destroy the unity of the Body and has provided power to handling it (Luke 10:19). Part of His provision involves learning to forgive and loving reconciliation. All conflict or offense situations should be handled according to principles laid down in Matthew 18. A proper view of all the principles and attitudes involved are necessary to endure and to flow in forgiveness. We sometimes only talk about the need of the offended person to forgive but before Jesus ever talked about that He first taught on: (1) Everyone’s attitude toward offending Matthew 18:1-14; (2) Reconciliation guidelines when offended Matthew 18:15-17. He taught these two things before He ever talked about (3) Everyone’s Attitude Toward Offenses in Matthew 18:21-34 which is forgiveness.
Take a moment and read Matthew 18 but here is brief overview.
Matthew 18:1-14 EVERYONE’S ATTITUDE TOWARD OFFENDING
No offense is too small nor is any person too insignificant that every effort should be made by everyone to avoid causing offenses. We all have the responsibility of disciplining ourselves and removing from our own lives whatever offends. Even if it takes drastic measures, we need to judge ourselves.
Matthew 18:15-17 RECONCILIATION GUIDELINES WHEN OFFENDED
Honest and loving confrontation can alleviate hostile feelings from an offense in order to come to a place of reconciliation. God doesn’t dehumanize us or uncreate our emotions as we grow spiritually. The willingness to forgive others does not obligate us to swallow our feelings when we honestly believe someone has wronged us.
Always walking around hurt, mad, and complaining indicates unforgiveness. We need to release it or go to the offender. Suppressing our hurt feelings will lead to unhealthy emotional build up and possibly develop into a root of bitterness. Honest confrontation aimed at reconciliation and restoration will safeguard us from negative emotional build up and keep lines of communication open. We need to forgive it; confront it; or get help to do either. God doesn’t like loose ends or unreconciled situations to linger on and on. The longer it continues, it’s more difficult to resolve, and there’s more danger of others getting involved. Our refusal to move to reconcile will also lead us in a dangerous direction which is toward judgment.
If after adequate time, space, (Revelation 3:21) and sufficient attempts have been made to reconcile and further progress is impossible because they “refuse to listen,” “pay no attention” or “ignore you,” it is only reluctantly that more people need to be involved.
Matthew 18:21-34 EVERYONE’S ATTITUDE TOWARD OFFENSES
Offenses whether big or small our attitude should be forgiveness or release. We as humans put limitations on how far forgiveness can go. Our forgiveness is to extend to God’s limit, 70 x 7. There’s accountability to the King in the Kingdom of Heaven for forgiveness amongst the brethren.
Forgiveness (release) is needed where debts (obligations) or what is owed are not met. Debt represents an obligation or what is owed. In an offense situation something should have been done that wasn’t or something shouldn’t have been done that was. Forgiveness is release of the debt or obligation. Forgiveness means you don’t owe me and I’ll not make you pay. It’s releasing them from our personal judgment, vengeance and predictions. Forgiveness is an act of compassion, mercy and loosing (dismissing, letting go of, pardon) the debt. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior, it keeps their behavior from destroying us.
Unforgiveness is a refusal to show compassion and mercy. It’s a refusal to dismiss, let go of, or pardon the debt. It’s making others pay for what should have been done or shouldn’t have been done. It also is a decision and act of the will. Unforgiveness opens the door to torment (torture) and blocks the forgiveness of God to us for our sins. Unforgiveness makes us to pay more than the one we are making to pay us.
Forgiveness is from the heart as opposed to the feelings. Most of the time we will have to forgive not because we feel like it, but simply because we decide to. The feelings of forgiveness come after the decision to forgive. God will change the way we feel but it’s up to us to decide to forgive.