Forgive and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6: 37. A very popular pastor, a powerful preacher, resigned this past week from Calvary Chapel, the church he and his wife founded 30 years ago. In a letter addressed to church leaders, the Rev. Bob Coy admitted “moral failure” and the elders of the church accepted his resignation. What impressed me about the church’s response was their willingness to forgive their leader. One of the members of Calvary Chapel said, “Of course I forgive him. We’re all sinners and we’ve all slipped here and there.”
It takes little effort to love our friends and family and serve them but it takes faith to love our enemies and do them good. A more difficult admonition is for us to forgive others who harm us in words or actions. When it comes to those closest to us, we must beware lest we treat them more severely than we treat ourselves.
It is not wrong to help a brother or sister but it is wrong if our attitude is judgmental and our lives are not right with the Lord. The great danger is hypocrisy, which means pretending that we are more spiritual than we really are. In trying to help others, we must be careful to be honest with God and ourselves.
Yes, we get upset when we are betrayed or hurt by someone and, if the person is known to us, because of his or her misstep we tend to forget whatever good they have done. We hold up his or her misdeed as a trophy. But forgiveness means once the act is acknowledged we treat that person as if nothing ever happened.
Iyanla Vanzant says, “Forgiveness frees from the pain of the past and moves us beyond our mistakes in the future.” Bishop Thomas D. Jakes says, “When you hold onto your history, you do so at the expense of your destiny.” It’s difficult to move forward smoothly while holding onto something behind you. There are blessings for those who forgive others.
Some of these blessings are laid out in Jesus’ sermon. In Luke’s account, there are promises (called the beatitudes or blessings), along with perils (four specific woes), passion (love your enemy), a supreme principle (the Golden Rule) and prohibition (unjust judging, not forgiving and hypocrisy).
People will fail, make errors, cross the line, breakdown, regress, relapse and have “moral failure.” But don’t place a wall against them. Don’t allow a judgmental attitude to block your way from loving people, because Jesus Christ has loved us in spite of our mistakes and has forgiven us.
During the last days before Jesus was put to death on a cross, He forgave many. Perhaps the most obvious transaction of forgiveness took place when His favorite disciple denied that he was a follower. Simon Peter went to the wrong place, hung out with the wrong people and was saying the wrong things.
And Jesus still forgave him, because Jesus knew that forgiving Peter’s failure would help him succeed later. Forgiveness is a transaction of trust that is always transformative, not just for the forgiven but for the forgiver, as well. Learn to say three words that are very powerful: “I forgive you.”
Lord, help us to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Amen!
Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net . Website: WTRMinistries.com