I am writing from 37,000 feet above the ground on my return flight from Athens, Greece. The ministry was blessed of the Lord. More later…
Fellowship and forgiveness has been on my mind lately—fellowship with God (the highest level of fellowship) and with one another (the basis of fellowship) … being called into fellowship with Christ and with one another.1
John writes that the evidence of our fellowship with God is having fellowship with one another.2 What a joy! This fellowship results in the continuous cleansing by the powerful blood of Christ. Psalms tells us that when “brethren dwell together in unity, there God will command the blessing”!3
But what happens when fellowship with my brother/sister ceases, not over disagreements and differences, but over an offense, a grieving that has severed the relationship? We feel we have been offended wrongfully, maybe even unknowingly by the other person. Sometimes these negative feelings are toward someone who has already died!
Sometimes our offense is with God and/or the Church. Our outward walk with God may look the same, but there is no joy or fellowship with the Spirit. We carry the pain covered with smiles. Sometimes we allow this pain to turn to bitterness of soul. We feel betrayed and somewhat angry. We are doing all the right things, but we experience a joyless walk with Christ—one of duty rather than delight.
Forgiveness given to others is so important. Jesus said, “If you forgive others their trespasses (leaving them and letting them go and giving up resentment) your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.”4 Mark emphasizes this solemn truth: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”5
Jesus teaches us that worship without reconciliation is unacceptable. Leave your gift at the altar of worship (of sacrifice), if you remember your brother has a grievance against you. Leave your worship songs, your church attendance, and a host of otherwise acceptable gifts and be reconciled with your brother.6
How many gifts are on the “altar” that are not received by God because of grievances? Notice, the challenge is to the one offering the gift. He may not have a grievance, but remembers that his brother does. The Dove departs when we hold grievances. Make peace, and then return to the altar. There God will receive your offering! There you will receive the blessing! Forgiven to forgive.
Christ forgives and heals through the Cross. The pain may still be there, but the forgiveness is complete. Christ truly forgives all! You may or may not be able to restore the relationship, but you have received the grace of God to truly forgive from the heart, as well as to pray for the “wounder”.
Jesus forgave while on the Cross. The Wounded forgives the “wounders”. That same kind of grace can be given to us by the Spirit of God—so that we let the offense bring us into new levels of intimacy with the Holy Spirit, and we enter into the “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.”7
When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness (Matt. 18:21-35), Jesus answered the question and then added the parable of two servants for emphasis. Peter’s question was this: “How often should I forgive my brother—seven times?”
The rabbis taught that the limit to forgive was three times. On the fourth repetition of the offense, forgiveness was not required (see Tractate: Rabbi Jose ben Judah [c. 180 A.D.]). Peter thought he was being very generous. He felt he was exhibiting the height of charity!
Jesus’s response was a staggering figure: “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Jesus was saying that forgiveness is unlimited in act and attitude—not literally 490 times!
Jesus then related the parable of two servants. The first servant owed the king 10,000 talents. James Boice calculates that if gold was being sold today at about $400 a troy ounce, the man owed a staggering $3.6 trillion! Beyond our comprehension! Astronomical! That’s the point.
Because of his inability to pay this enormous debt, the servant pleads with the king to spare the selling of his wife, children, and goods in the open market to pay as much of the debt as possible. The servant pleads and the king (who represents God) freely forgives! What a beautiful picture—the debt we could not pay, freely forgiven by the grace of the King. What love!
A fellow servant owed the first servant a very small sum (about $20 in today’s money). He owed a tiny fraction of the other man’s debt. Yet the unforgiving first servant hardened his heart, did not forgive, and threw him into prison! He refused to share grace with another. Consequently, he was given over to the “tormentors” (sickness and torment of soul). He was cut off from the Spirit of Life and Joy.
What can we do if we have these feelings of betrayal, bitterness, hurt, and anger?
First, we can pray. Settle the matter with God first. Ask His forgiveness for your broken fellowship with Him.
Second, ask for His grace to forgive from the heart the offending party. It is not a matter of feelings, but love to the Lord and obedience to Him. It is a decision. We respond to the Spirit’s wooing, and to faith in God’s Word.
Third, pray for the person/persons. At first, our prayers may be without any emotion. The grace of God will be given to you as you pray in obedience and seek the highest good of the other. Your prayer will be with a true sense of God’s love, a love of the Spirit.
Fourth, go to the person, write a letter, make a phone call, or do whatever is appropriate to clear the slate. Make genuine efforts to make reconciliation. If they refuse, then before God your conscience is clear. If the person is deceased, bring the matter before God.
By faith, receive grace in your heart and forgive. You may still feel the pain, but you will be drawn to the Cross, and again enjoy fellowship with the Holy Spirit. You will enter into a new phase of intimacy with the Lord.
Let us go on being forgiven and forgiving and enjoy fellowship with Christ and the Spirit. We will experience a newfound joy!
It was a joy to return to Greece for the third time to serve the brethren and the country. This was my first “solo” ministry overseas since 2000. These were special meetings of spiritual emphasis with pastors and with students of a small Bible school. What a blessed time we had!
I was asked to speak at a meeting for pastors only. It was an intimate time of sharing our hearts and lives with these precious brethren. I also was privileged to speak at the International Christian Fellowship in Athens. God manifested His Presence with a holy hush, weeping, and intense prayers. It was a special time. Only God knows what long-term affects were had in the Church and in the country.
Athens is rich in history! We could see the Acropolis and Mars Hill from the missionaries’ home. We visited ancient Corinth, the Bema Judgment Seat, and various other ruins of a once-prosperous city filled with idolatry, ritual prostitution, and moral chaos. My mind was flooded with Paul’s love and admonition to the saints there!
Thank you again for your kindness, generosity, and prayers. Your love has been extended to us in so many ways. You have been faithful to us in our trials and triumphs! We thank the Lord continually for you and pray God’s blessings and recompense.
In joyful service to Christ as Lord and and soon coming King,
Reuben & Carmen Sequeira
1 1 Corinthians 1:9
2 1 John 1:7; 3:14; 4:20
3 Psalm 133
4 Matthew 6:14-15
5 Mark 11:25-26
6 Matthew 5:23-24
7 Philippians 3:10