In this system our Maker has put in place, He provides the something — which is life, and we provide the management.
But have you thought of the stewardship responsibility we have when it comes to forgiveness?
For stewardship to work as God designed, there are two core components that must be understood and practiced. First, there must be something to manage and, second, there must be someone to faithfully manage it. In this system our Maker has put in place, He provides the something — which is life, and we provide the management.
When we apply the above model to forgiveness, we see that in Isaiah 1:18 God first offers His forgiveness to us. “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Jesus repeats that invitation through the apostle John in 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The question is, how should forgiveness be managed?
Our heavenly Father invites us to experience forgiveness. What a blessing this is! What peace, joy and sweet relief we receive as we accept His gracious offer of reconciliation. But we must stop and reflect on this for a moment. There is no doubt God offers His forgiveness to be a blessing to us. But is it only for us or does He give it, like all other gifts, not only to bless us, but for us to also bless others through forgiveness to them? I believe forgiveness is given to be given.
Over my years of ministry, I have heard too many sad stories of unforgiveness and the bitterness that results from it. Families have been torn apart, relationships soured and churches divided all because of the unfaithful management of God’s forgiveness. Who loses the most? The one who will not pardon.
Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 6:14, 15 that we are to be channels of forgiveness; that is, managers of His grace. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
That sounds serious and one might ask, “What if they haven’t asked to be forgiven? Does that release me from my responsibility to forgive?” Consider this counsel from the pen of inspiration. “He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God. We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong, we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. It is their part, no doubt, to humble their hearts by repentance and confession; but we are to have a spirit of compassion toward those who have trespassed against us, whether or not they confess their faults. However sorely they may have wounded us, we are not to cherish our grievances and sympathize with ourselves over our injuries; but as we hope to be pardoned for our offenses against God, we are to pardon all who have done evil to us” (Mount of Blessing, pg. 113).
I would encourage you to be a faithful manager of all that God has given to you, including forgiveness. Then you will experience the freedom of not only receiving, but also sharing, His grace.
Joel Nephew is Michigan Conference Stewardship director, as well as the Planned Giving and Trust Services director