Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 28, 1963

Leaving The Handle Out

James L. Yopp

There are fewer lessons harder to learn than how to forgive. Some people live a lifetime without realizing the true meaning of forgiveness. Yet, in order for a Christian to be faithful, he must of necessity be willing to completely and unreservedly forgive those who sin against him. Jesus commanded, "And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses." (Mark 11:25) Stated negatively: "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 8:15) The whole tenor of New Testament teaching points to a willingness on the part of the Christian to forgive.

Many ask, "But how often should I forgive?" This is much the same question put to the Lord himself by Simon Peter. He said, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?" (Matthew 18:21) No doubt Peter felt quite liberal in the allowances made for continued offences. In spite of Simon's apparent liberality, Jesus answered, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, until seventy times seven." Certainly no Christian would stop at the forty-ninth offence and claim to have fulfilled his responsibilities. The thought is: as often as one sins and states his repentance, the Christian should forgive. (Luke 17:3-4)

To further focus our minds, one might ask the question, "What if God displayed the same attitude toward us that we display toward others?" Would he be forgiving our every offence, or upon the slightest mistake, say, "Oh, I forgave you yesterday and you did the same thing today. Do you expect me to keep on forgiving you time after time?" But God isn't like that and neither should his children display such an attitude If one sins against us every hour and asks forgiveness on the half hour of every day, we are to be willing to forgive him. This takes a character who has acquired a deep love for God, for Christ and for the souls of men.

But how sad it is to hear one say, 'Well, I forgive you this time, but don't let it happen again." Such an attitude is far from that expected of a child of God. In principle, he is burying the hatchet, but leaving the handle sticking out so exposed as to be grabbed at the slightest provocation. When such happens it is often used as a club over the head of the offender. If God was as unmerciful as many of us, the gates of heaven would close for a lack of customers.

Christian, examine your heart. Do you have something pack in the corner, hidden from everyday sight, that can be called a grudge? Something you have hidden possibly for years just waiting for the chance to spring it on someone? Did you give lip forgiveness to some offence, but not heart forgetfulness? Too many have the idea they can forgive and leave the handle sticking out. If that has been your attitude, we hope you will not only bury the hatchet, but cover it sufficiently that it can never again be found.

— Kennett, Mo.