By Bill Burkett
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1
How is it that the forgiven are so unforgiving?
Allow me to paraphrase that for you; Brethren, if a man makes a mistake in life, then you who claim to be spiritual should reach out to him in a forgiving and reconciliatory manner and bring him back into the fold and nurture him spiritually until he is once again solidly grounded in the Lord – because you are made of the same stuff he is and you could very well make a mistake yourself, and then how would you like the brethren to treat you if the shoe was on the other foot? Galatians 6:1.
A fallen brother came to a camp meeting to show his desire to fellowship with the brethren – seeking restoration by the brothers. The evangelist that night came off the platform speaking on the topic of fallen preachers, walked over to where the fallen preacher was sitting. Preaching into the microphone under the anointing (?), put his face right up into the face of the fallen man when he made the statement, “… and that’s why when a preacher falls he should never preach again!!” Some months later that preacher made a mistake and the shoe was on the other foot.
In a second case a pastor fell and later recanted, left the sin he was in and returned to the church and rededicated his life to Jesus. Later he returned to the church he was pastoring when he fell from Grace. We are not saying that was too wise, but he probably assumed he was forgiven and made the decision to return. The new pastor went to him and told him to never come back to the church again.
In both cases we have mentioned the statements made to fallen men have an element of truth in them. In the first case, the preacher did not commit the scarlet sin of the act of adultery (a sin unto death). But in the second case the scarlet sin was committed and in that case he should not fill the office of a bishop pastor or stand behind a sacred desk again. But rather than charging angrily at a brother in such a case, remember what Paul said, in meekness restore such a brother! When a brother commits a scarlet sin we are not to blast him and add to his misery, but we are to mend or restore completely! that is what that word meekness means in Galatians. People think in imagery and even the memory uses images to recall unpleasant scenes from the past. It is certainly contrary to Scripture when Paul gave to Timothy the qualifications of a bishop (pastor/minister). There are sins that bar men from holding a sacred office again, ever. He can never fit the qualification and his personal calling is cancelled by the transgression that has marred the body. He can never again stand before the church as an example.
But, in both cases the manner in which these brothers were approached and treated was shamefully wrong and certainly not gentle or reconciliatory. In both cases they may have reacted to the deeds correctly but they certainly reacted to their brethren in a vicious and unforgiving way! They were right in condemning the misdeed of a brother but they were dead wrong in the way they handled a precious brother who longed to be restored.
What are Paul’s words? Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness. Praotes, meaning with gentleness and humility – not with an angry stern spirit. First, you arrange to see the brother privately, and then explain to him that you love him and forgive him and receive him as your brother and friend. Then explain to him why it would be better for him not to appear in the church until you decide and that it opens old wounds and recalls a dark valley for the people of the church. Explain to him that you would be happy to fellowship him and help him any way you possibly can and welcome his fellowship outside the church.
Be gentle and meek as Paul instructs us. Why? because the Holy Spirit works through a gentle spirit and the fruit of the spirit, and if we want the Spirit of God to help the church and the fallen brother we must walk and speak within the instructions given us in the Word of truth. It’s not your angry and stern spirit that is going to help the brother or the church – it is speaking and acting in love toward one who seeks love and providing the Holy Spirit the atmosphere of truth and brotherly love He can work and do His wonders in.
When Paul instructed pastors to rebuke before all, that all may fear, he was addressing an altogether different situation than restoring a brother in meekness. In that case he was speaking of rebellious troublemakers in the church, not fallen brethren seeking to a way back to God. We must not confuse but rightly divide the Word of truth.
If a fallen brother returns to any fellowship with a wrong attitude and a belligerent spirit then the brethren are required to meet spirit with spirit! But here we are addressing the forgiving restoration process of a fallen brother who is broken and regretting his sin, whatever it was.
If it’s a tithe paying family who leaves the church we go after them. But if a man makes a moral mistake and weeps in contrition and would be reconciled, most preachers will not forgive him but rather mark him and wound him with slander and gossip until he is driven out in shame. WOE to the unforgiving preachers who ostracize and kick fallen men when they are down!
Would you please notice the missing step (according to our assumptions) in this word of instruction Paul gives to (us) the church; that it is not mentioned that this wayward brother came back and asked for forgiveness! It’s very clear that the church is to reach out to that brother and reason with him and receive him until he is restored WITHOUT him asking or begging for forgiveness! None of us would be saved if our salvation depended on our asking God to forgive us before He went to the cross! He reached out to us before we even existed and provided forgiveness and then sent his Spirit into the world to call us out and draw us to Christ. We never asked Him to help us BEFORE we were saved. It was not until after we were touched by God when He reached out to us that we repented and were brought into the kingdom. HE reached for us BEFORE we asked Him for help.
The message is clear here, brethren. We are to reach out to men and women who have fallen and not ostracize them and bar them from the holy club of those who have not made the mistake they have. Methinks your attitude toward a fallen brother stinks in the nostrils of God and you may be committing more of a sin than they committed. You become like the unjust steward who was forgiven a half million dollars in talents and then beat on a man that owes you a mere 3.00 dollars in pence. Shame on us for making a man’s mistake a scandal that destroys him. Is this the way Jesus came to you when you sinned against him? OR, does He treat you that way when you commit a secret sin and confess it to Him? NO! He receives us back with gentleness and forgiveness. Shame on us when we have been forgiven a whole life of sin but we can’t restore a brother who has fallen and is trying to get back.
Many fallen have been turned away by unforgiving preachers when they tried to come back. But after being ignored and made a “marked man” by the brethren, turned back into the darkness, disappeared, and were never seen again. Shame on the forgiven who have not learned the real love of God that forgives. They are forgiven but they will not forgive.
Forgiven people should be forgiving!
Do we fail to forgive whom God does forgive?
The horrors of the cross indicate to every intelligent creature that there must have been an extreme reason for such an extreme measure to be taken by God as the only means of redeeming man from his sin.
Let’s go back and consider from the very beginning the cause of the cross. The cause was sin and then we will show the link between the two as we go along. The meaning of sin is rather vague in most people’s minds. It can mean different things to different people – and to some it means nothing! But we find the true meaning of sin in the bible in the very beginning of our redemption.
Adam and Eve sinned against God by showing contempt for His commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They trifled with death. That is they defied the commandment and placed little importance on what God said about disobedience bringing death. We have a lot of Adam’s and Eve’s today who are saying, God didn’t really mean that, and then do their own thing in complete rebellion against what the Word teaches (pure doctrine). That attitude constitutes REBELLION! You may think you’re getting away with it, but you’re not. So we deduct from the very dawn of Biblical revelation that SIN IS REBELLION AGAINST GOD, REBELLION AGAINST HIS MAKER. Sinners are REBELS against God’s commandments, they may confess to believe in God and at the same time they show contempt for His commandments. Any person who treats the Word of God with indifference or contempt is a REBEL – A SINNER!
Rebellion against your maker is the grossest of all sins!
Free thinkers and professed atheists and agnostics don’t want to believe in creationism because that would mean that God owns them as their maker and they become obligated to an authority beyond themselves and they don’t want to be governed by a creator! So, to throw off His authority they simply deny He exists – and that won’t work either!
The cross happened because man could only be restored through a process of perfect justice (justification) based on equivalence and that life was in the blood. The reason the cross was carried out was because it was the only way God could forgive man without any principle of perfect justice.
The cross happened because God wanted to forgive us.
It was the only way man could be forgiven.
The substitutionary death of Christ on Golgotha is the only possible way God can offer man forgiveness. If God had no desire to forgive man then the cross would have never happened! now, Whosoever will to the Lord may come! Revelation 22:17.
But from that broken idyllic relationship between man and God we see God from the moment of transgression reaching out to man to restore him and redeem him back to Himself offering FORGIVENESS. Yes, the great heart of God ached at the thought of being separated from His creation, humans, who had the power of choice had chosen to disregard Him and turn from Him to seek the pleasures of the human appetites – which all who rebel against God are doing to this day! The economy of the world is based on human life apart from God’s governing principles. The cosmos system delights itself in pleasure, sensationalism, the appetites of sex, hunger and ambition, human gain and power with little or no regard for their creator, showing contempt especially for His moral commandments.
And yet God’s son keeps reaching out to man with nail scarred hands to prove His forgiving love toward us. It’s woven throughout the Scripture that God is a forgiving God full of love for the rebel sinner who returns to him in repentance.
There is that one classic verse in the Bible that tells the whole world the whole story of how God reacts to all the rebellion of mankind; For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
In the beginning when Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s word to them, He slew two animals and made coats of skins and clothed them. From the very beginning God was reaching out to man to forgive him and bring him back to Himself. At the time we did not realize that He was already instituting blood redemption based on perfect justice that He might forgive all who have rebelled against Him.
The slain animals providing a covering for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 was the first type of blood redemption that foretold the coming redemption of the cross that was the final divine act of God providing forgiveness for man to save him from just damnation.
You cannot understand the Bible;
You will never understand the nature of God or the cross until you see that at the root of all He has done and all that recorded in Scripture is based on his divine desire to forgive man and restore him to the fellowship of his presence and favor.
Forgiveness is at the heart of the cross.
Forgiveness is the very foundation of the gospel.
Forgiveness is the reason for justification.
It is the theme of the Bible and the message of evangelism!
Forgiveness was the main topic of Jesus and the cry of the disciples as they went out into the world after the cross. Forgiveness and lies at the core of every Christian doctrine. Their cry to REPENT! offered forgiveness of God to all who called upon His name believing.
Forgiveness is why sinners cry at the altars of the church.
Forgiveness is the reason every message of evangelism ends with a call to repent.
Forgiveness is why the church exists and without it, it is not a church!
Forgiveness changes everything including you and your destiny.
Forgiveness jerks a soul from the flames of hell and sets his feet on streets of gold!
Forgiveness transforms a hopeless and heartless drug addict into a loving father.
Forgiveness of the foulest sinners is the only word that can define the true character of God’s love.
When forgiveness through repentance was refused, kings and nations fell apart.
Jesus gave His life for His killers.
Man of sorrow, what a name,
For the Son of God who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah, WHAT A SAVIOR !!
But forgiveness is not to be limited to God FORGIVING MAN.
JESUS CAME TEACHING US TO FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER.
The presence of that forgiveness is the signature of the truly born again and it matters not what your nature was like before new birth. A forgiving nature is the one thing every Christian should be cultivating, and as I will do that, it will effect my attitude in every other area of my life.
Forgiveness between brethren, family members, neighbors and business associates was once a major theme of the evangelical message from the church house to the brush arbor camp meeting and it was common for Christians to possess that quality. Asking forgiveness and making restitution for wrongs we committed, or losses we brought to others was part of the conversion experience and was preached and practiced from the pulpit to the pew in church generations past. But in the modern materialistic church this godly principle has been all but trashed and relegated to silence.
But when we lose this sweet quality we lose the Spirit of the cross.
Asking forgiveness takes a broken heart.
A proud man is not going to ask another to forgive him.
A hard spirit will not ask for forgiveness.
Thieves and the dishonest are not going to ask forgiveness.
Condemned men strapped down ready to be executed in the death chambers often ask forgiveness – too late.
Marriages go on the rocks because spouses who were once tender asking forgiveness became hard and proud losing the humility needed to say, I was wrong and I’m sorry.
A forgiving spirit will let some things pass by in order to avoid hard feelings.
Forgiveness is not necessarily something we do if we are asked,
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:25-26
Do you think God is fooling when He says this?
You don’t have to be asked to forgive before you forgive someone. Forgive them before you pray!
I can forgive a person even if they do not ask me to forgive them.
That’s what Jesus did on the cross.
A forgiving spirit forgives without being asked, BUT, if I wrong any person I should offer my apologies and ask for forgiveness that it might be well with me in the judgment!
Do you see that God provided forgiveness for the world before the majority of us were even born!
Forgiveness was there waiting for me from my birth.
Let us take a lesson from God and learn forgiveness as He demonstrated it by His example.
I remember once when I was a young preacher that an older minister became very suspicious of me trying to draw people around myself in a takeover of the church. The furthest thing from my mind!! I didn’t realize his suspicions until one night service he preached on Absalom, kept looking at me and drew parallels between “some young preachers” and Absalom that was quite clear to all he meant me. I was shocked and my heart was pierced because I was deeply devoted to that pastor and proved my loyalty to him so many times. I went to the altar and prayed at the end of the service and asked God what I should do – what I could possibly do to calm all of his fears. The Lord told me at the altar that night what to do. After the altar service I went to the pastor and I said to him, “Pastor, the lord really spoke to me tonight and I have asked for His forgiveness for any wrong, (even though I knew I had done no wrong. But that was what he wanted to hear and what would give him assurance). Thank you for this message, it spoke the truth to my heart.” He grabbed me and hugged me and that was the end of his suspicions. I could have risen up with righteous anger to think he thought such an evil thing of me. I could have started talking and denouncing his suspicious spirit to the other brothers. But the answer is not vindication, the answer is to forgive him and do anything possible to preserve the peace of the church. That was a precious lesson from the Holy Spirit for me on the power of Forgiveness. I learned that forgiveness is reconciliatory.
To this day a brother I love very much and enjoyed working with on a mission field refuses to forgive me after I asked for his forgiveness and he continues to slander me to other brothers. Actually, he accused me falsely and would not even acknowledge that when I gave him proof and his own blood brother confirmed I was telling the truth. He ignored the facts and chose to hate me and tried to bar me from the favor of other brethren. His problem to this day is that he cannot FORGIVE nor can he ask to be forgiven. Once he picks a fight with a brother he commits RAGA refusing to forgive, telling others who sat in on the meeting I had with him to clear everything up, that I didn’t mean it when I asked for forgiveness. When I presented the facts about his false charges against me, he brushed them aside instead of admitting what he did wrong and had falsely accused me.
We have two examples above to show that forgiveness is reconciliatory but an unforgiving spirit is reckless and dissembling. Pride, anger and ambition will rob your soul of the forgiving spirit. Forgiveness wants to put things together and restore what was lost even if it means taking the blame.
Jesus made it very clear that if we do not forgive our brethren that we will not be forgiven. To not be forgiving is an attitude of the most dangerous kind! It can have eternal consequences.
In Matthew 6:14-15 we find the Lord’s words concerning this danger.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
When I see an unforgiving attitude in a professing Christian I wonder if they ever reflect on the fact that Jesus has forgiven them. Can we be forgiven so much by the Lord and then refuse to be forgiving to any person? Look at the cross all of you hard boiled loveless people who call yourselves Christians – THINK! See what He has forgiven you!
Forgiven people should be forgiving!
In Matthew 18:21-35 is one of the Lord’s strongest teachings on forgiveness.
A certain king would take account of his servants:
One was brought that owed him 10,000 talents!
This is more than 1,500,000 dollars – a million and half dollars!
His Lord ordered him to be bound and he, his wife and children to be sold as slaves because he had no way to pay such a huge debt! He cried out to his Lord, Have patience with me and I will pay it all. Then his Lord looked upon his plight and had compassion on him. He was loosed and forgiven the debt! FORGIVEN THE DEBT!! 1.5 million dollars!! He came out from the presence of his Lord and found another servant that owed him 100 pence – about $3.00 – took him by the throat and demanded the debt be payed!
That servant asked forgiveness of him in the same words the unjust steward cried out to his Lord asking for mercy. But one of the servants went and told the king. He was brought back to the Lord again and this time there was no forgiveness!!
Let me repeat;
Forgiven people should be forgiving!
This wicked servant was delivered to the tormentors.
This should give us a pretty good idea how God will deal with unforgiveness in the judgment.
The wicked servant offers many precious lessons. Will we learn from them?
1. He respected the king and called him Lord But he had no respect for his fellow servant. How can we love God and not love our brethren? If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? I John 4:20. He worshiped the King and despised his brother? Impossible !!
2. He recognized the authority of the King but then abused his authority when dealing with a brother.
3. God will judge the forgiven who are unforgiving without mercy in the judgment!!
4. Forgiveness arouses gratitude: And gratitude should make us forgiving of others. If we hold grudges and commit RACA against anyone it is only a three dollar wrong compared to what He has forgiven you – 1.5 million dollars!
Unforgiveness makes no sense to any true Christian. After being forgiven more than a million dollar debt we turn around and take a man by the throat for three dollars!? No wonder God will turn the unforgiving over to the tormentors!
5. How much did Jesus stress the importance of forgiveness? When asked by Peter how often we should forgive our brother – maybe seven times? Jesus started His answer with, Verily, verily. This may be the same as, firmly, firmly, or surely, surely, meaning so be it or Amen! When He started any reply with these words it simply meant, you’d better be sure! or, it’s a very sure thing! The Jesus said, I say unto thee, not seven times, BUT SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN. What He meant by that was – there is not limit. Forgiveness should never be withheld from anyone and especially anyone who asks your forgiveness. And that means we forgive as God forgives and that offense is removed from between us as far as the East is from the West!
Let the church return to forgiveness and give the penitent a break. Forgiveness is always followed by gratitude and produces good fruit in all who have received it from God and from other of the brethren. Don’t hold a grudge, but rather show the Calvary love that forgave you 1.5 million dollars worth of sin! The forgiven should be forgiving.