Matthew 9:8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
The crowd was in awe that God had given authority to Jesus to heal, but it is more personally important to us that Jesus gives forgiveness. A doctor can often provide healing (even though he isn’t the actual source of the healing) but forgiveness is a different matter. Actually, after His resurrection Jesus gave authority to forgive to us His children (John 20:23), but we understand that very little and exercise it even less. I find I am explaining forgiveness to people quite often, because the Japanese language has an unfortunate confusion between “forgive” and “permit.” Forgiveness isn’t permission to sin, but it is a release from sin. We have no idea what the sin of the paralytic in this story might have been, but once he was released from it, he was able to receive physical healing as well. Actually, refusal to forgive sins against us is sin in itself. (Matthew 6:14-15) As I tell people often, forgiving things done to us releases us from those things, but refusing to forgive binds those hurts to us, and our suffering is multiplied. Forgiveness is actually one of the greatest of God’s gifts, but we take it far too lightly. We fail to recognize how much we have done that needs to be forgiven, and so we get offended at little things and refuse to forgive others, creating a vicious cycle that is destructive to the extreme. The current bumper crop of “snowflakes” who are offended at everything were never disciplined properly as children to understand that they too need forgiveness. God offers us so much, but we have to choose to accept and receive it, and forgiveness is a prime example of that.
I am often reminded that I wasn’t delivered from a particular “besetting sin” until I got it into my head and heart that I really was forgiven. Different people have different areas of particular weakness, but repeated failures in the same area can convince us we aren’t worthy of forgiveness. Actually we aren’t, because no one is worthy of the Son of God dying for them, but He did it anyway. It was when I had a revelation that God’s forgiveness made me as if I had never sinned that I received the strength from Him to set that sin aside. I won’t say I’m never tempted in that area, or even never stumble, but it’s on an entirely different plane. As a pastor and counselor I tell that story fairly often, which reminds me of my own humanity, and that’s a very good thing. I experience hurts and slights of all sorts on a frequent basis, but knowing I’ve been forgiven helps me forgive in turn. That’s not to say that I excuse people. Just yesterday I called down a carload of young people who had parked in a handicapped slot when their only handicap was moral/ethical. They weren’t amused, but that was the course of love. I forgive them, but I don’t excuse them.
Father, this is such a vitally important area that we overlook so often. It was hard for me to forgive whoever placed a bag in front of Cathy at the baggage claim so that she tripped over it and fell when she went to get her own bag, and I didn’t even see it happen! Help me indeed exercise the gift of forgiveness, without excusing, so that the lies of the enemy may be defeated and people – including me – be set free, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!