In my first posting on this topic I began by telling you that when you sin against someone in word or in deed and are convicted of your sin by the Spirit of God, you are obligated to go to them and confess your sin to that person (Matt. 5:23-24). I remind you of an important caveat: that the one to whom you are confessing must already be aware of the sin. You must never confess sin and seek forgiveness from a person who was not aware of being sinned against.
The principle is that the scope of confession is as great as the scope of offense. You only confess to the person you sinned with or against. You only seek forgiveness from the person you hurt or offended.
If you intend to seek forgiveness from someone, the expectation is that you have repented of your sin. To repent means to turn away from that sin. The Greek word, metanoia means a radical change of mind for the better; to abhor your past sin; hate it so much that you run the other way from it.
This is where our repentant sinner finds herself when she is ready to confess her sin to the person or people she has sinned against. All of the aforementioned things take place in the person who has been convicted by God of their sin, experienced godly sorrow which has led to repentance before God. So much of this has taken place in the privacy of her own heart and to this point may have not involved anyone else.
Up until now, the pain and misery have been private as the repentant sinner has dealt with God about her sin issue. It is at this point she will actually confess what has been repented of. The kind of sin and the depths of the sin will decide the tone of the confession. A woman confessing gossip and asking forgiveness would be humbled as she confesses (and rightfully so!) but the weight and tone of confession would not compare to a woman confessing adultery to her husband.
In either case, forgiveness is costly. In America we have a saying “Freedom isn’t free.” We say this because since our forefathers first landed on the shores of our great nation, there has been a cost to be free. Someone has paid a price with their blood and sometimes with their life. Likewise, forgiveness isn’t free either. We know that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our freedom from the bondage of sin and death dying a horrible and brutal death on our behalf.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit… 1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
Forgiveness is costly… One of the things that takes place when you grant forgiveness to another person is you transfer the responsibility for recompense over to God. This means you give up your perceived right to revenge. It means you choose to remember no more the sin that was done against you, and that you don’t bring it up again.
It means that you don’t bring it up to yourself anymore. This is not as easy as it sounds! It takes a dedication and determination to leave the past in the past and to be willing to preach to yourself on those occasions that it comes to mind unbidden. There are times you will have to remind yourself that you have forgiven that sin and moved on. You may have to literally tell yourself to stop thinking about it and take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and redirect your thoughts to something true, noble, righteous and holy (Philippians 4:8).
If the sin that was committed against you was particularly grievous it may be very difficult for you to do this. It is not humanly possible and without the ministry of the Holy Spirit you will fail. Only by His power can you truly choose to remember no more sin committed against you .
Forgiveness also means you don’t bring it up to them anymore. The sin is and remains in the past. It is not hauled into the present into the next argument or disagreement you have with them.
Many times those we forgive are not deserving of it. You may have been seriously injured physically or emotionally, there may be financial damage of some sort; you have been harmed in some way and you did not deserve what happened to you. Some people will have to live the rest of their lives with the results of the sins of another affecting them.
There is a huge sacrificial aspect in forgiveness. In forgiving those who sin against you, you are imitating God’s forgiveness of us. We bring God glory as we are willing to forgive and move forward in relationships. Humility is developed, our character is strengthened, relationships are spared. Imitate our Lord, and forgive.
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