WHEN PETER ASKED JESUS how many times he ought to forgive his brother, He answered, “Seventy-seven times,” meaning that it should be unlimited (Mathew Ch. 18). When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He told them to always pray that they would “forgive others”.
Forgiving others is not easy. Biblical forgiveness has several meanings: a) to forgive is to blot out, to erase, “I alone will blot out your sins for my own sake” (Isaiah 43:25); b) to forgive is never to remember, “I will forgive their wickedness and I will never remember their sins” (Jeremiah 31:34); c) to forgive is to pardon, “ is is my blood which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” (Matthew 26:28).
One may ask whether someone who is unremorseful deserves forgiveness. This is the most challenging aspect of forgiving. Yet if we keep dwelling on the wrong committed and the guilty party being unregretful we will only do ourselves harm. It may make us feel hurt and resentful, affect our appetite, and even cause insomnia and raise our blood pressure. As a result we are drained physically and spiritually. How can we hope to live well if we cannot forgive and forget?
A very important principle of forgiveness is that when one is truly contrite about his word or deed and is willing to reform, he fully deserves to be forgiven even if the wronged party is reluctant. The parable in Matthew chapter 18 presents different aspects of forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is like that of the master who forgives the servant who owes him millions of dollars. Yet this debtor refuses to forgive a fellow servant who owes him a few thousand dollars. As a result, the master revokes his forgiveness for the unforgiving servant.
Admission of fault with a mere “Sorry” will not do. Some may think that the casual apology they offer will excuse them from taking responsibility for their misdeed, rash speech or action. They might even feel that their half-hearted apology should oblige the wronged party to forgive them, telling the latter, “Haven’t I apologised? What else do you want?”
When Christ was nailed to the cross one of His last sentences was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This is the definitive meaning of forgiveness. Ash Wednesday falls on Feb 22, marking the commencement of Lent. If we follow Jesus and walk the path He took to the cross we will realise how diﬃcult it is to live out His teaching on the virtue of “forgiveness”. Let us remember Paul’s experience and his words, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).
Is there someone in your heart whom you are still unable to forgive?
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung is the President of the Chinese Annual Conference.
Leading by the shepherd model
JESUS’ UNIQUE METHODS were a clear sign to the people, or should have been, that He was going to be a different kind of leader, not modelled after the traditions and standards of the world (cf. Mark 7:6, 9; 1 John 5:19).
The Father’s business had to be conducted by the Father’s rules, which included leadership methods. He did not use the contemporary models of leadership:
• The conquering Roman general,
• The Greek orators or debater,
• The successful merchants and businessmen,
• The senators or governors of the Roman empire,
• The Jewish model (cf. Matthew 23),
• The success guru,
• The democratic-political model,
• The dictator,
• The savvy financial management model,
• The great strategist model,
• The “most popular person” model,
• The CEO, boss, motivator, or manager model.
How simple! The radical leadership concept introduced by Jesus is: shepherding sheep. He cut across all models of leadership in His day. The norms and expectations for leaders who would be world-changers were radical to observers, and even in our day by those who do not understand the Father’s business.
Jesus chose the shepherd model for Himself and for those who would be His followers. These under-shepherds would change the world with this simple, but demanding, model of leadership. The kingdom would be perpetuated by no other means. The shepherd model would lead Christ’s church to victory; not the oppressive, bossy, dictatorial leadership models of Rome.
His was the way of the towel, not the sword or human wisdom or power. Church leaders would be shepherd-servants like their Master; they would be known by their love for Him and for one another (John 4:15; 13:34-35).
J. J. Turner, e Shepherding Model, Shepherds, Wake UP! 16-17, extracted by KneEmail, a Christian resource organisation.