Philemon 1, Psalm 24
Frank and Elizabeth Morris treat a member of their church, Tommy Pigage, like their son. They talk daily on the phone, discuss the Bible together frequently, spend many weekdays and weekends together bowling, etc. The interesting part of this story is that Tommy killed their only son, Ted Morris, in 1982 in a drunk driving incident. Initially, the Morrises were horrified that Tommy's sentence was reduced to nothing more than 5 years probation and required attendance at MADD (Mothers against drunk driving) programs. When Elizabeth Morris went to the MADD meeting and sat in the back, she didn't see what she expected and didn't do what she expected. She saw a fully repentant and heartbroken Tommy who fully confessed before the audience of his guilt. Rather than the hatred she entered into the meeting with she felt love and pity. Over time the three became like the family that they are now, complete forgiveness. Another picture of forgiveness is Corrie Ten Boom, who as a Christian along with her family was sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp after hiding Jewish people in their house in Holland to escape the Nazis. After the war, she came back to Germany to give a talk on forgiveness. At the end of the talk she noticed a man walking forward, who she recognized as one of the cruelest guards at the camp who personally brutalized Corrie's sister Betsie, who died in the camp. The guard said to her after her talk, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well, Fraulein, will you forgive me?" She initially could not bring herself to reach out her hand to his in forgiveness. Then she remembered what Jesus did for her, and woodenly, mechanically she thrust her hand into his. When she did she felt a warmth of emotion fill her whole being, and cried, "I forgive you, brother! With all my heart". With that act of forgiveness, all the bitterness which had been repressed was released.
In the short letter, Philemon, that Paul wrote to him about Philemon's runaway slave Onesimus, we get a beautiful picture of forgiveness. The punishment for a runaway slave was death. Onesimus, while in Rome, encountered Paul who led him to Christ. Onesimus was now a dear brother in Christ to Paul. Paul writes in v.8-9, Therefore I might be very bold in Christ and command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you...". Paul didn't want to throw his authority around, he appealed to love as the motivation for the forgiveness he was requesting on behalf of Onesimus. He goes on to describe the transformation in Onesimus, in v.10-12, "I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart,". He urges Philemon to not only spare him, but accept him as he would Paul. Paul goes on to give one of the clearest examples of imputation in Scripture in v.18-19, "But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay- not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. When we consider what Jesus did by taking our sins upon Himself, imputing them, and what we owe Him, how is the forgiveness we are asked to extend to others come even close to what He has done for us. Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
There is no one who has not been wronged by another person either in the home, at school, at the workplace, etc. Forgiveness is necessary for both the offended, and the offender. The offender needs to be able to remove the guilt that overrides their lives. The offended needs to forgive or else a root of bitterness can consume them. If we step back and rather than comparing ourselves with each other, but instead compare ourselves to our perfect God, how much more do we owe God than any of us owe one another. Many will say that they can forgive but never forget. This may sound good, but this is not forgiveness at all. God shows us how to forgive in Hebrews 8:12, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." When we consider how much forgiveness we all need, yet don't deserve, how can we not forgive one another.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: