This is a guest post by Dave Johnson. Dave is a close friend of mine and president of the Johnson Consulting Group where he is a wealth manager. I serve as a wealth manager there and research manager there as well. He is also an elder at Life Connection Church which is a part of the Acts 29 network of churches. You can follow him on twitter here.
Recently my wife and I were falsely accused by a fellow believer from church on an issue that was untrue and unfounded. What was hard to swallow was the fact that this same person had done this to myself at least once in the past, to other Pastors on staff, and to church members. I write this not because of how the church handled it (which was scripturally sound), but because of how I wanted to respond.
I was quick to point out to the other pastors/elders his sin, and I was ready to not only pronounce judgement, but I also thought it would be best if we just asked him to leave the church and go cause trouble elsewhere! Then I had opportunity to sleep on it, and the next morning I found myself reading “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32) and “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
If you are a Christian, you know that we are the most forgiven people in the world.
I found myself in a little dilemma with my own spirit! I wanted to judge quickly, empty the trash, wipe my hands clean, and move on. But I could not do that! As I read God’s Word, I realized that he has given us a very high standard to live up to when we have the opportunity (like I did) to forgive someone else. Thankfully, God also gives us the grace and direction we need to imitate Him by forgiving others as He has forgiven us (me).
If you are a Christian, you know that we are the most forgiven people in the world. It is easy for me to preach to others, “forgive as Jesus forgave you”, but when the offense is against me, it is not so easy to preach such things…especially to a person that has a record of wrongs (I’m the one keeping score).
Well, after a little wrestling with my spirit, I began to listen to His voice and began to pray for God to soften my own heart. I asked God to help me extend to this man (forgiveness) what has been extended to me (forgiveness from the Father over and over and over again). Ken Sande says “to forgive someone means that I release him or her from liability to suffer punishment or penalty.” Lord knows that I wanted this man to suffer. He injured my wife’s heart by the things that he said. He made me mad that he had done this before to myself and to others. Wasn’t it time for him to pay? I realized then that forgiveness is a decision that I can choose to act upon or ignore.
The answer was clear. While the pastors/elders practiced godly church discipline on this man, I still needed to respond by forgiving this man and his wife, and help them to see the truth and help bring them into a right relationship with God: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
If you are struggling with unforgiveness like I was, I suggest you take another look at the enormous debt for which God has forgiven you. Ask yourself whether you have ever treated God or others in the same way that you have been treated by the person who wronged you. Remind yourself what you deserve because of your sins, and then rejoice in the amazing promise of His Word: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103: 8-11).