Oct 24, 2009

The Art of Forgiveness

Jonathan FalwellBy Jonathan Falwell

I read an interesting column by Jason Whitlock on FoxSports.com this week in which the sports columnist apologized for using untrue information regarding Rush Limbaugh in an earlier column.

As you may know, several "quotes" were recently attributed to Mr. Limbaugh by the so-called mainstream media while he was part of a team attempting to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams. The problem was that the conservative radio king never made many of the racially divisive statements that were attributed to him.

While I don't agree with everything Mr. Whitlock wrote in his column, I do appreciate that he was willing to admit his mistake and formally apologize in his column for the inaccuracies. Such action is something most of the spreaders of the same untruths have been unwilling to do. I hope Mr. Limbaugh is willing to offer forgiveness to Mr. Whitlock.

Admitting one's wrongs through apology is certainly a biblical concept, as is forgiving. We need look no further than the model prayer found in Luke chapter 11:

"and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (verse 4, NKJV).
Having an apologetic heart is a mark of Christianity, as is having a heart that is willing to forgive when apologies are expressed.

I fear that far too often in this age of acute self-centeredness and situational ethics we see many people – even Christians – who are willing to stew and fume rather than forgive or ask forgiveness.

In the Book of Genesis, we read the beautiful story of a young man who has every reason in the world to have a heart that is hardened toward forgiveness. His name was Joseph, and he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. However, our sovereign God worked in Joseph's life so that he arose to great power in Egypt.

Years later, his brothers appeared before Joseph and, in one of the most wonderful expressions of selflessness, he offered them absolute forgiveness. In one of the most touching speeches in the Bible, Joseph cries out to his brothers,
"I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life."
Because of his forgiving heart, the brothers were tearfully reunited and Joseph was able to revisit his elderly father. All of this was possible only because Joseph did not harbor ill will toward the brothers who had done him so wrong in the past.

Is Jesus Christ alive in your heart to the point that you too could offer such forgiveness?

I think that this type of mercy is possible only when we are living out the paradigm I have come to love and make the theme of my life: "Not I, but Christ." We can place our own selfish interests on hold only when we are enabling Jesus Christ to be in charge of our lives and our actions. And then we can live with hearts of forgiveness and mercy.

As a pastor, I counsel many families, and I can attest that forgiveness is very lacking in many homes today. As Christians, we must remember always that we are God's children only because He is willing to forgive and forget our sin. We must be willing to forgive others, as He has forgiven us.

The bottom line is this, if you have offended someone, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. If someone has offended you and asks for forgiveness, humble yourself and receive their penitence in the Spirit of Christ.

Let us all pray for hearts like Joseph so that we can turn our own emotional and spiritual pains into victory, just like we see in Genesis.

Related Links

If I do not forgive others, does that mean my sins are not forgiven? What does Matthew 6:14-15 mean? - GotQuestions.org
Why Can't MSNBC Say 'Sorry' to Limbaugh? - FOX News
How can we know when it is best to forgive or confront? - Grace to You (John MacArthur)
The Gift of Forgiveness - Dr. Charles F. Stanley (Book)
InnovateChurch: 8 Innovative Ways to Lead and Grow the Church - Jonathan Falwell (Book)