November 16, 2017

The nature of God to forgive

By: Larry Shaffer

Fishing in the Texas Hill Country near Boerne, TX

The nature of God to forgive

Philemon, Part 4

The man, Onesimus, who stole from and betrayed Philemon is sitting in front of him. What should he do? Perhaps Philemon’s mind went back to a parable that Jesus taught. We know it as the parable of the Prodigal son. Once the prodigal had squandered a sizable portion of his father’s wealth he realized that he was destitute and starving. He goes back to his father hoping for simple forgiveness and the chance to work off some of his massive debt as a hired hand. This act would exhibit a tremendous effort of forgiveness toward the foolish and rebellious son on the part of the father. As the son approached his father’s home, from a distance the father saw him and ran to him. He smothered his son and kissed him repeatedly. The son tried to give the speech he had rehearsed but was only able to get out, “I have sinned and am not worthy to be your son.” Before the son could spit out his proposal of being a hired hand, the father shouted to his servants, “quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”

This is the nature of God’s forgiveness. Forgive the past, forgive in the present, forgive what is coming; forgive with reckless abandon. And not only forgive but restore and reward. It makes no sense. I’m sure that the father’s neighbors, friends, even his servants and everyone else thought he was crazy. The other son only said what others were thinking. But to the second son, it was personal. Why should his brother get all this attention when he deserves to be kicked out for good? It wasn’t fair. People should receive what they deserve. Justice should be rendered. The level of sin and betrayal should always be paid back accordingly.

You’re going to forgive him???

We all appreciate being forgiven but we don’t always like it when others are forgiven and able to skirt their just due. But the nature of God is to forgive, restore and reward. So, it makes sense for Paul to close out this letter to Philemon by saying, “having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say,” v21. Will Philemon be like Jesus and forgive, restore and even reward?

Lord, you have given us a gift; the capacity to forgive. It’s a gift in that it allows us to be free of revenge, resentment and bitterness; emotions that cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Help us to embrace this gift you’ve given and be free to forgive. Deal with our hearts, we pray. Amen!