Again this year I have the privilege of presenting several workshops at Emmaus Bible College’s “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference held in Dubuque, Iowa, May 26-28. My three topics are entitled: (1) “None (or at least, Fewer) Dare Call It ‘Sin’: I Timothy on Homosexual Behavior”; (2) “The Forgotten Virtue of Forgiveness (I Timothy 1)”; and (3) “Becoming Worldly Saints — An Evaluation of Michael Wittmer’s Needed Challenge.”
Let’s think a bit this morning on the topic of forgiveness. Are Christians always to forgive? With or without the offending person apologizing? When Jesus cried out on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” was He forgiving those who crucified Him? Was He declaring that all people everywhere without exception are already forgiven of their sins by God (as some of my universalist friends say)? Are forgiveness and restoration the same? How does reconciliation relate to forgiveness? What is genuine forgiveness and why is it so important?
I Timothy (the book we are studying at the “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference), although it does not use the word “forgiveness,” provides some insight into this important Christian virtue. As he describes his own conversion, the Apostle Paul says he was “shown mercy” (1:13) and that “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly.” Mercy and grace and two elements of genuine forgiveness: mercy >> withholding judgment and grace >> expressing kindness and favor toward another. Paul later says that he was saved in order that God “might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” Patience is difficult to show toward those who have offended or hurt us. Immense patience is doubly hard!
One writer said, “I don’t mind forgiving and forgetting — It’s just that I don’t want the person I forgave to forget that he has been forgiven!” Is there someone who immediately comes to your mind that you need to think about considering maybe forgiving? (to be continued).