The Oxford dictionary defines forgiveness as “To Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” Stop feeling angry means keeping ourselves from stress and it centers around our interest rather than others.
People forgive one another mutually only when they need each other’s support due to the social set up. It is an affair among known people. Practically speaking, forgiveness in our day-to-day context is reduced to a simple verbal reciprocal.
Jesus is bringing a paradigm shift to the human concept of forgiveness. God is not forgiving us to stop his feeling of anger but He forgives us to save us from perishing our souls. It is not in the interest of God but it centers on our interest. It is not a mutual or reciprocal response but it is an answer to a soul’s cry of repentance. God knows us but often we do not know or understand Him. Yet He gave His son’s life even when we were sinners.
Even after receiving God’s mercy, the human mind is still not able to understand the volume of God’s grace involved in forgiving the sins of mankind. Jesus gave an illustration to Simon when he was unable to understand Jesus’ attitude towards a woman who was constantly wetting His feet with her tears and anointing His feet with alabaster. Simon had invited Jesus to his house without understanding His nature of Godliness. Simon was viewing Jesus as a common man. Though he called him a teacher, he expected Jesus to identify the nature of this woman in a prophetic vision. While analyzing all these things Simon forgot to weigh his worthiness in the presence of Jesus. In other words, Simon was seeing Jesus through his flesh. He would have doubted Jesus’ chastity as He had allowed a ‘sinful’ woman, to touch Him and kiss Him. Simon was unable to visualize the things happening inside the woman as she came closer to her saviour. Simon could only assume the lustful nature and assumed that the woman was enticing Jesus. Now, Jesus is gives an illustration aptly fitting in these two characters, Simon and the woman. Whether Simon realized his own role in that illustration or not, he gave the right answer.
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Teacher, say on. A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty. When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them, therefore, will love him most? Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. “ Luke 7: 40-43
After deriving an answer from Simon Jesus differentiated the love of the woman with that of Simon and demonstrated His authority to forgive sins of mankind. Jesus said to the woman your sins are forgiven: Your faith has saved you; go in peace. These words of Jesus kindled the hearts of the people gathered there and they said ‘who is this that even forgives sins?’
Jesus can forgive as He Himself bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. But even at that point of time people judged Jesus as stricken and smitten by God. Unless and until we realise our unworthiness we cannot understand the sufferings of Jesus according to the words of Isaiah 53:5.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5”
In God’s perspective, forgiveness is bearing others griefs, sorrows, transgressions and iniquities. Are we able to bear the iniquities of our fellow beings? As long as we judge others in our flesh we cannot bear other’s follies. Only when we are righteous, we can bear their iniquities. A sinful man cannot bear other’s follies because he himself is struggling hard to hide his sins. In this pursuit he could not take the blames of others on him, rather will conduit his blame on others.
“Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor 5:21
If the blood of Jesus has cleansed our sins and made us righteous, then this is the time for us to bear the ignorance of people who still do not know the living God. Is it not our responsibility to draw them to the cross where forgiveness was not only spoken but given freely?
We might have practiced this forgiveness as a simple reciprocal till this time. Hereafter let us bear the ignorance of people and start praying for their salvation. Once it is borne by us, Jesus, our advocate will plead to His father on our behalf and will say they are the righteous people washed by my blood. At once the ignorance of the people who did not understand the love of the living God will understand and be saved.
Elijah was willing to bear the ignorance of the people of his time and chose to suffer along with them when he stopped the rain for three years and six months. Seeing this sacrificial act of Elijah, God in His mercy provided him food and water all through the draught season. Furthermore, Elijah was able to draw the fire from heaven, and the ignorance of people was forgiven.
“……the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” James 5: 15-16
“My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.” James 5: 19-20
Are we willing to bear the iniquities of others and suffer? If the answer is yes, salvation will come as a lightening.