Sunday, February 6, 2005

Faith Requires Forgiveness

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that you Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
Notice the word “and” in this verse. It is related to what has gone on before. In this case, it connects to the powerful things Jesus said about mountain-moving faith. But what does forgiveness have to do with faith? Quite a lot, actually.

Remember when Jesus talked about faith as a mustard seed, in Luke 17? The disciples had just asked Him to increase their faith. But what had provoked this sudden desire for more faith? It was what Jesus had just spoken to them about forgiveness.
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him. (Luke 17:3-4).
The truth about forgiveness is that it is an act of faith. The disciples immediately recognized that this kind of forgiveness would require quite a bit of faith.

You see, when people are offended, they are significantly slowed down, or even stopped from moving forward. The Greek word for “offense” is skandalon, and refers to that which is a snare or a stumbling-block. When you are caught in a snare or trip over a stumbling-block, you have immediately ceased to move forward. You are no longer making progress. The question is, How long are you willing to remain in that hindered state? The choice is yours.

The answer is to forgive, and that takes faith, faith to believe that God is going to take care of the situation and restore whatever you have lost by the offense. This faith-filled forgiveness allows you to get up, get out and move forward once again. That snare is no longer a snare, the stumbling-block is no longer a stumbling-block. They have been removed, like mountains, from before you.

But there is also another aspect of forgiveness which is more to the point: Faith works through love, and it is the nature of love to forgive. When we are unwilling to forgive, we are actually unwilling to love, and unwilling to extend to others that which God has so freely extended to us.

Forgiveness is an opportunity to connect to the magnificent heart of the Father and clear away things that keep us from moving forward in faith. We can forgive, because He forgives, but failure to forgive becomes a major hindrance to our faith.

Faith requires forgiveness, and forgiveness requires faith. Do not let offenses, snares and stumbling-blocks keep you from moving forward in your faith. Instead, let your faith help you forgive. When you encounter the mountain of offenses, cast them into the sea with these words: “I forgive.” Do this as often as the need arises. Then begin again to move forward into the wonderful destiny God has prepared for you.