Revival and Forgiveness
by Keith Hassell | October 4, 2010
Revival removes the stumbling block of unforgiveness from the hearts of God's people. In fact, there can be no revival where people refuse to forgive. Jesus made it clear that offenses will come (Matthew 18:7). Let's face it, we have all been offended by others and we have all offended others. It seems it is least expected in the church. But why should we be surprised? It has been said that the church is really a collision of sinners rather than a sanctuary for saints. It seems we have an unrealistic expectation of Christians. Christ saves us while still in our fallen condition. Then he begins the work of sanctification--making us like Jesus. Has anyone arrived there yet? (I hope we would all answer "NO" to that question!) We know we often fail to act like Jesus but for some reason we expect other Christians always act like Jesus. We ask for mercy when we offend, but demand justice when others offend. What does God think about this double standard? Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV) Unforgiveness not only builds a wall between us and others but it also builds a wall between us and God. Unforgiveness rejects mercy and reconciliation and insists on justice and vengeance. Unforgiveness hurts us more than the one it is focused against. Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison while waiting for the other person to die! Unforgiveness closes our ears to others and to God. It is impossible to have an open and honest relationship with God when we refuse to forgive. Forgiveness is not condoning sin. God does not condone our sin when He forgives us. Forgiveness is undeserved. God forgives us not because we deserved it, but because He does not want our sin and offense to determine the final outcome of the relationship. Neither is forgiveness ignoring the reality of the offense. Forgiveness offers the possibility of a new beginning. What is forgiveness? Gregory Jones, former dean of Duke Divinity School, offers this definition: "Forgiveness is not so much a word spoken, an action performed, or a feeling felt as it is and embodied way of life in an ever-deeping friendship with the triune God and with others. As such, a Christian account of forgiveness ought not to simply or even primarily be focused on an absolution of guilt; rather, it ought to be focused on the reconciliation of brokenness, the restoration of communion--with God, with one another, and with the whole Creation. Indeed, because of the pervasiveness of sin and evil, Christian forgiveness must be at once an expression of commitment to a way of life, the cruciform life of holiness in which we seek to "unlearn" sin and learn the ways of God, and a means of seeking reconciliation in the midst of particular sin, specific instances of brokenness." We all live in the midst of particular sin and specific instances of brokenness. We often offend, and we are sometimes offended. In the midst of a world of sin and brokenness, Christ died so that we would no longer live under its power. Forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and love is the message of the Cross. Revival is a return to living out the reality of this message.