Meet the Makarioi (Dispensers of Grace)

Forgiveness continued

Jesus taught that there was one sin, which could not be forgiven. “I tell you, every sin and blaspheme will be forgiven men, but the blaspheme against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32). Many preachers and teachers, including myself, have been leading the people into believing that it is unlikely that we have committed any sins against God’s Spirit. Again, and it is due to my ignorance that I held on to that belief. This sin stands in the way of man’s salvation. Salvation is the product of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If we trample on any one of the “Three” we trample on our own salvation. The “Three” are interwoven. Here are the facts. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:20). And “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).

We have been led, to believe, that forgiveness is a gift when in reality it is an agreement or a contract between two persons with a third person as a witness. In the “Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” the king held the servant accountable for his failure to forgive the servant who was even beneath the servant with the greater debt (Matthew 18:32-34). Jesus concluded, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35; 6:14-15). God is the witness to the act of forgiveness that did not take place between the two servants. The one with the larger debt negotiated with the king, but not with another servant. This is similar to the way we expect God to forgive us without reconciling with each other. In my own experience, forgiveness has been and continues to be a difficult and sensitive task. It is easy to create or cause an issue, but a nerve wrecking effort to straighten things out or come to some agreement. 

I met people, and I have been there, who had the idea when they become Christians, they could walk away from their commitments and the damages they had caused. That is the wrong reason for becoming a Christian. A Christian becomes a “makarios” and the first thing he or she does is seek forgiveness through reconciliation and restoration. When I tried to walk away, I carried my conscience with we and it would not let me rest until I began to be reconciled for my mistakes. It was then that I was overwhelmed with forgiveness. Did I become a saint and stop sinning, or make more mistakes and did God go after me and cover them up or wipe them out? Of course, He did not! I became more aware of my tendencies to stumble, and the immediate need is to put forgiveness to work. A Christian is in the ministry of reconciliation, restoration, justification, sanctification, and it takes a lifetime to fulfill it.

Yes, King David did claim that God had removed his transgressions from him as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12), only history does not agree with his belief, and his own Psalms contradict his statement. He did feel sorry for himself, but he left the punishing of his enemies who had hurt him, to his son. He turned his own sons against himself when he forced Bathsheba into his bed, and when he promised that her son would be the next king. His sinning with Bathsheba reminded David of his own origin. David’s mother had conceived him in sin, God’s Spirit had left him, and he felt lost (Psalms 51:5, 10-12). And, even his father and mother had stranded him (Psalms 27:10). When Samuel was sent to Jesse, in Bethlehem, to find the man that would replace King Saul, David was not among the legitimate sons (I Samuel 16:1-13). Psalms 27:10 and Psalms 51:5 suggest that David’s real father had left his mother when she may have had an affair with Jesse, the legitimate father of David. The mark of Cain or the unwillingness to master sin plagued David, and the mark of Cain plagues all of us. What God asked Cain, God is asking of us because sin is the primary enemy of forgiveness, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7). Whatever it was that irritated Cain, he simply did not forgive his brother or his parents, and his wages of sin ended in death and so did the sins of his parents before them.

For the New Testament believer, Jesus changed all that. Indeed, Jesus did forgive the ignorant people who crucified Him. The question we must ask, will God forgive those that are not ignorant? Jesus gave us this pertinent answer. “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). “For judgment I came into this world, so that the blind will see  and those who see will become blind.” The religiously superiors objected and Jesus revealed their problem, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your sin stays with you” (John 9:39-41). It appears that we have been deliberately misled on Jesus’ instructions or on the sins David and his generation had committed. This is what the gentle Jesus said for people that know they should not break the Seventh and Tenth Commandments. “You have been told, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that whoever looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart. Therefore, if your right eye causes you to lust, tear it out and dispose of it. It will be to your advantage to lose an eye before your whole body is committed to Geenna (Hell)” (Matthew 5:27-29). The hand that reached out for a woman, who belongs to someone else, must also be amputated. Sin must be amputated because it stands in the way of forgiveness, and ultimately, in the way of salvation.

The writer, to the Hebrews, coped with people that played with sin and he found that it was nearly impossible to be freed of the clutches of sin (Hebrews 6:4-6). The enormous guilt, which transgressions build up, prevents people from repenting and also from returning to grace for forgiveness. It is sin, which closes the door to salvation. Deliberate sinning tramples on Christ, and sin insults the Spirit of Grace, for which there is no more atonement (Hebrews 10:26-31). Sin makes a mockery of Grace because it shames God, and Grace is the only gift that can deliver man from eternal separation from God. The heart of Grace is forgiveness and forgiveness is the extended arm of Grace. Paul’s own confession should open our eyes to the task of maintaining and remaining in a state of forgiveness (I Corinthians 9:19-27; II Corinthians 5:11-21). Forgiveness represents freedom and as long as sin has dominion over us, it impairs our ministry of reconciliation, and the ministry of reconciliation is not just serving with our lips, but also serving with our deeds. This is what Jesus said to those that did not share their forgiveness with the needy, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

Genuine forgiveness is magical. I, too, had reached a dead end on the road to forgiveness. I had to do more than believe. I had run away from my father four times before guilt pushed me to the brink, and I had to initiate forgiveness with my father with reconciliation, restoration, justification, and sanctification. I had to make things right and dispose of my bitterness. Like the Prodigal, I ran into the arms of my father and he was just as eager to embrace me, as I was to embrace him. He, too, had felt the need to unload his burdens for me and we began as friends bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Forgiveness became a burden bearer. It eased the loads my father and I were carrying unnecessarily. We set each other free. By lifting my father’s burden, I had lifted my own.

There is a city in Alberta Canada called Wetaskawin, “The Hills of Peace.” Before the Christian missionaries came to the province, Maskepetoon, chief of the Cree Indians, warred savagely against the Blackfeet. Maskepetoon became a Christian and ceased his hostility. A Blackfeet killed his father and the Cree chief did no longer seek revenge. Instead, he rode into the Blackfeet Camp, demanded to see his father’s killer. The man was brought before him and Maskepetoon said to him, “You have killed my father. Now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes.” The guilty man responded, “My son, you have killed me” (Wa. 981). Forgiveness is a characteristic of the “Makarioi.” That young chief was a true example and so can we be. It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.