I struggled with a lot of things growing up in a single parent home, and unforgiveness was one of them. My mother was, and still is, a strong and faithful believer. She had nothing else to lean on but her faith in Jesus Christ and His promises to her as His child. As a young man I wore the scars of unforgiveness like a badge of honor. My earthly father had abandoned us at a very early age, and then died in a car accident several states away when I was 8 years old. I never knew the man, and as I began my teenage years and on into adulthood, I used my hate for him as the excuse for my ungodly life. I never took responsibility for my actions or sin, but always blamed him. He was the reason, I told myself and others, that I abused drugs and alcohol. He was the one I blamed for making life so hard on my mother and our family. He caused us to struggle so much financially, often not having heat in the winter or enough food on the table. It was all his fault! However, I realize now that this was ‘the cup’ our Lord had for us to drink at that time. It’s amazing to consider that the contents of ‘the cup’ He prepared uniquely for me, tasted a lot like ‘the cup’ others have had to drink. Only later in life did I come to know that He even hands those cups over to children as well.
We’ve all heard it before; in fact, many of us have said it ourselves…”I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget!” When you ask anyone who has been hurt by someone, ‘is it easy to forgive the one who has done you wrong?’ So far, in the 47 years of my short life, the answer has always been a resounding “NO!!” It isn’t easy…but through God’s merciful example and enabling grace, forgiveness is absolutely possible and if fact, it is commanded!
The struggle to forgive wasn’t new to the Apostle Peter. He came to the Lord in Matthew 18:21-22, and asked,
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” I can almost see Peter standing there with crossed arms ready to respond with, “but Lord!” However, Jesus continued on (23-35): “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Then, without any questions or discussion, Matthew 19:1 says, “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed…”
The thing we often don’t want to acknowledge is that the Lord didn’t put parameters on this forgiveness. ‘Well, if a person does this and this, then you forgive them, but if they do that, and then that…well, of course that changes everything!’ No, forgive, period.
None of this made any sense to me until May 17, 1998. My wife Jan and I had been attending a church for the previous 2 months, due to the death of an acquaintance’s mother who had attended there. We had gone one Sunday out of respect for the deceased, not knowing that the God of all creation was drawing us ever-closer unto Himself. Then on May 17, 1998, I finally surrendered to the Lord’s invitation to receive His forgiveness! I had, for two and a half months, been hearing the message of hope, forgiveness, grace and mercy, but continued leaving, thinking there was no way a Holy God would forgive me. There was no way!! But there was…and He did!
At this point Jan and I had been married for about 8 months, and we had been trying to have a baby. Within two weeks of receiving Christ, Jan became pregnant. We were ecstatic! After a couple of months we went to the doctor for a check-up and discovered what we were having…it was a boy! At this moment the Lord brought the full meaning of forgiveness to me and immediately I knew what my son’s name was to be.
You see, for years I even hated my name. I bore the name of my earthly father; the man that for years took the blame for my hurt, my actions, and my sin. Now, though I was saved, I couldn’t forgive him face to face due to his death. I go by Don, but my name is Donald Moore Edwards Jr. Now my 16 year old son goes by Donnie, but his name is Donald Moore Edwards III. I had been forgiven of all my sins! Do you hear me? ALL MY SINS! I needed my son to know what forgiveness means, not only to the Lord through His Word, but also what it means to me. I wanted my son to know that Christ was the reason I was able to forgive my father, and his name was a living testimony of the forgiveness that Christ so freely gives! I am thankful to say that my son is saved, and he loves telling others about Jesus, and the forgiveness He offers to all who would receive Him!
Matthew 6:9-13 says, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
Consider this. What if God forgave us based on how we forgive? He Himself taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” I am so thankful that He forgives from an endless well of grace and mercy and compassion! One thing I have come to realize through this continuing lesson is that God’s forgiveness not only makes it possible to forgive others, but we are able to forgive ourselves also. Sometimes it is far easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves! This shouldn’t be so! Forgiveness is a most precious gift among the innumerable gifts the Lord Jesus Christ has given! It is that which we must exercise and seek daily.