A New Commandment I Give You
In writing about forgiveness, I try to emphasize the idea that
forgiveness is not something we extend because the other person has earned or
deserves it, but because the Lord has commanded it. He commanded it for three
reasons. First because the failure to forgive is a sin that interrupts our
relationship with Him, second because it’s an opportunity for us to show our
gratitude for having been forgiven, and third because by doing so we keep His
In His parable of
The Unmerciful Servant,
the Lord made it clear that having forgiven us for everything, He expects us to
forgive each other for the little things that get between us (Matt.
18:21-35). Failure to do so interrupts our fellowship with Him (Matt.
Jesus didn’t die so that bad people could become good. He died so
that dead people could live. In the parable of the prodigal son, the older son
criticized his father for restoring the younger rebellious son to his former
position. The father, a type of our Father, didn’t justify his actions by
saying, “your brother who was bad has become good” but “your brother who was
dead is alive (Luke 15:32).” The
father forgave his younger son and clearly desired for the older one to do so as
Law or Keeping the Commandments?
The Lord’s major problem with the religious leaders of the day
wasn’t that they were failing in their effort to live by the law. It was that
they considered themselves successful when in fact they were leaving out the
most important part.
When they asked Him the first and greatest commandment He said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And then He said,“And
the second is like it: Love your neighbor as your self (Matt
22:36-39).” Their pride in keeping the law had produced in them a love for
themselves greater than either their love for Him or their neighbors and put
them in violation of both of these commandments. For this they received no
credit for their obedience to the law, but rather condemnation for failure to
keep the commandments (Matt 23:13-33).
The same point is made in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax
Collector (Luke 18:10-14). The
two men were praying in the Temple
at the same time. The Pharisee bragged about himself to God, thanking Him
that he was not like other men. The tax collector humbly said, “God, have
mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said the tax collector was the only one of
the two who went home justified before God. The Greek word translated
justified means to be rendered righteous.
If you think you’re a better Christian than someone else because
you haven’t sinned like they have, you’re in danger of becoming one of the
modern Pharisees. If you’ve failed to forgive a brother because you think he
hasn’t earned it or doesn’t deserve it, you’re almost there. Keep going and
you’ll earn the Lord’s condemnation just like they did (Luke 6:37). Confess and you’ll be forgiven, just as they were (Acts
Romans 2:24 proclaims, “It’s God’s
kindness that leads you to repentance.”Lamentations
3:22-23 agrees. “His mercies are new
every morning.” No one comes to Jesus out of a desire to obey the law, but
out of a realization that we can’t. It’s His mercy we seek, not His justice.
Perhaps this is why the Lord gave us a “new” commandment inJohn 13:34. “Love one another.
As I have loved you, you must love one another.” It’s so important He
repeated it in John 15:12. His
kindness to us is to be expressed in our kindness to one another. Out of His
love He forgave us, although He didn’t need to and we didn’t deserve it, and out
of that same love we are to forgive each other.
Of all the gifts we received from Him, the greatest is love (1
Cor 13:13). It’s the distinguishing factor by which the world will know we
are His (John 13:35). Concerning this love, we are to be a channel, not a
reservoir, allowing it to flow through us into each other, instead of hoarding
it for ourselves. “As I have loved you,
you must love one another.”
“If you love me,
obey what I command,” the Lord told us (John
14:15). In so doing He reminded us of the greatest commandments.
“Love the Lord your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as
your self “ as well as His “new” commandment,
“As I have loved you, you must love one
When other believers sin against us they are breaking all these
commandments, failing to act out of love for the Lord and a neighbor, and
failing to express the Lord’s love for us. When they admit they’ve sinned and
confess the Lord forgives them. When we fail to forgive them we are
breaking His commandments as well, failing to act out of love for the Lord and
our neighbors, and failing to express the Lord’s love for them. When we admit
we’ve sinned and confess the Lord forgives us.
For I Desire
Mercy, Not Sacrifice
Some Pharisees had just accused the Lord’s disciples of
breaking the Law by picking same heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath.
The Lord responded,
“If you had known what
these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned
the innocent.” It’s in Matt. 12:1-8 but it’s a quote from
Hosea 6:6. He was saying that God views the way we treat
others as evidence of our feelings toward Him. Obedience is
acceptable only if it’s undertaken in response to God’s love for us. Since
no one succeeds, everyone requires God’s mercy which is evidence of His love for
us. Our mercy toward one another is evidence of our love for God. It goes
against human nature because it comes from the divine nature, but it’s what God
desires of us. He says, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your brother just as
I had mercy on you?” He’s got a point. Selah 10-22-11.