Seeking Forgiveness from Others . . . Am I Willing?

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Spiritual Reflections | 0 comments

What should I write on this week? Well there is “the debate” from last night that was a train wreck . . . Don’t get me started. There is the sad news out of Christianity Today yesterday about a global Christian leader who may have led a double life. So sad! There is the ongoing issue of religious liberty with the arrest of hymn singers in Moscow, Idaho for not obeying mask and social distancing rules. All of these issues are worthy of discussion, well, maybe not worthy.

I decided that today I would write about something more positive and edifying, about something that happened to me last Saturday. I read Lamentations 3 in the morning . . . “Great is your faithfulness” and “wait on the Lord” both of which at this point in my journey were a tremendous encouragement. Sometimes God, who is always faithful needs time to act. Now, when I say God needs time to act, I don’t mean that he cannot accomplish something in short time, so he requires longer time. God does not need time to investigate a situation, or time to prepare to answer a need or time to figure out a workable solution. He uses time with us to teach us to trust in Him. He is not slow nor is he hasty. He does what He does in His own good time and for His own good reasons. When we think that God is unjust or blind or doesn’t care, we need to remind ourselves that He is always faithful. Always! We just need to wait!

So, I read Lamentations in the morning and later that afternoon, I received a phone call from “George” with whom I went to school more than forty years ago. George and I ended up serving the Lord “together,” not “together together” but close to one another, in the same part of the Lord’s vineyard. We periodically had contact down through the years and maintained a good friendship (I thought) as we had similar sensibilities and goals in life. Eventually we separated geographically to the point where we had limited interaction except by telephone, in the days before cell phones with their “free” long distance and the internet. But we remained friends. Our children were friends even through college, our wives were friends, and we had been in each other’s homes on a number of occasions. We spent time praying together for our ministries. We even recreated together on occasion.

About five or six years ago, a breach occurred that seemed to end that relationship. The details are unimportant, and quite frankly, I can remember few of them with any specificity. There are some things that getting old does help! A failing memory is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to past grievances. In the course of a conversation, my friend said some things that were unpleasant. The conversation ended and from that day until last Saturday, we hadn’t spoken, a period of maybe five or six years.

Out of the blue, my brother called me to ask my forgiveness for the breach that had occurred years ago. It was a simple, straight forward request. He said he had done wrong; he knew it was wrong and he wanted to seek forgiveness. I was glad my friend called. I was glad I could extend to my brother forgiveness that ultimately is found through Christ. In a few minutes the past relationship was restored, and I am happy to say that George is my friend still.

As I have reflected on this event over the weekend, I decided to write on this to challenge ministry men in particular to ask the question, Am I willing to seek the forgiveness of those I have wronged? We all sin, and we all need to ask forgiveness—from our wives, from our children, from our associates, from our church members, from our neighbors, from strangers, from whoever. Forgiveness needs to be sought when we sin.

There are several reasons why my friend’s seeking forgiveness was such a blessing. First, it was pleasing to God. God is always pleased when we do right. My friend honored God by seeking forgiveness. Second, it was good for my friend to do right. He had been convicted by God that he needed to make something right and he did the right thing. His seeking forgiveness made him a better man and a stronger Christian leader. His humility made him better. He could have ignored God’s conviction, but at great peril to his own soul. He gained little from me by doing the right thing, but he gained much from God. Third, it was good for his ministry. When a leader sins, no matter how insignificant (I doubt that many people even knew of our breach), if a man fails to make things right, its hurts his ministry. If things pile up and go unrepented of, God has a way of bringing these past infractions to bear on our lives. Fourth, it was good for his marriage. His wife knew about the breach and she likely knew about the repentance. By my friend doing the right thing, he set a great example before his wife that should encourage her in her walk with Christ. Fifth, it was good for his family, even if they knew nothing about either the breach or the repentance. George is a better man today for what he did, which means he will be better in all of his relationships. Kudos, George, for doing the right thing. Sixth, it was good for me. It restored a relationship that I cherished. George and I are friends again and who knows how God may use us together for His greater glory. It was also good for me as an example of doing the right thing. I must confess that over the weekend I wondered if there are those who I have offended that I need to do this with, even years later. I do not want to enter eternity with unresolved personal offenses with people. I welcome opportunities of restoring relationships with people—those whom I may have offended as well as those who may have offended me. Finally, it provided me something to write upon this week that I hope will encourage others.

This brings me to a final question—Am I willing to grant forgiveness to those who have sinned against me? What would have happened if I had failed to forgive my friend? He would have strengthened his relationship with God but mine would have been greatly injured. Sometimes, it is hard to grant forgiveness for the wounds of others. If you think we have it hard to do this, consider how difficult it must be for God to forgive us whose sins made Jesus’s death on the cross necessary for our salvation.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Ultimately, forgiveness starts with God and flows through the Cross. As we have received it, we must extend it to others and seek it for ourselves when necessary. God grant us the grace to do the right thing, no matter how hard. Eph. 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV).

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub

Church Historian

Jeff is an experienced professor of Christian history and theology. He regularly travels internationally to train Christian leaders. When stateside, he publishes in the field of American religion. Research interests include Baptists and slavery, racism, Pentecostalism, and global Christianity. Jeff has taught around the world including Canada where he resided with his family for his first nineteen years of ministry; Romania, Russia and the Ukraine in Europe; India and a limited access country in Asia; and Zambia and Kenya in Africa.

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