Thursday, January 12, 2012

Portraits of Forgiveness (Part 4)

We have looked at the repentant Heart of the prodigal and the forgiving heart of the father. Now let's take a look at what we can learn about the unforgiving heart of the older son.
An Unforgiving Heart. The older son (representative of the Pharisees who were listening to the Lord Jesus) is a study in the stubborn refusal to forgive that is characterized by:
  • Hardness. There was an unwillingness on his part to consider restoration of his younger foolish brother. He felt justifiably cold toward his brother. And he was outraged that his father would still want a relationship with a son who had so deeply offended him (v28).
  • Demanding of revenge. His focus was only on immediately punishing his brother for what he had done rather than focusing on what had changed in his heart. He wanted to make his brother pay for what he done. He had no mercy and no desire for reconciliation (v28).
  • Arrogant refusal to celebrate. The older son with held fellowship from both his brother and his father (v28). He missed an opportunity for joy and celebration because he was preoccupied with himself and his hurt. He missed the loving heart of the father that longs for restoration. Instead, he angrily withdrew in self-justified indignation and smugness over being right, and he refused to recognise that what he was doing was causing just as much pain between himself and his father as was caused by his younger brother.
The refusal to forgive indicates a rebellious, stubborn heart that has not drunk deeply of the water of grace and mercy at the well of God's forgiveness (Luke 7:47). Our unwillingness to love those who have harmed us reflect our own failure to understand how much God has loved us. Peter reminds us of this when he describes seven essential, progressive graces, which culminate in godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Then He writes, "For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins" ( 2 Pet.1:5-9). Paul challenge us "not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, loud quarreling, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma" (Eph. 4:30-5:2). I am to forgive even as He forgave me and I am to love as He love me, anything less and I'm falling short of the standard set by God Himself.

This older son never changed his heart and far as we know continued to be unhappy and miserable and never entered into the joy of the father. A repentant Heart, a forgiving heart or a unforgiving heart. Which of these three types of hearts describe me? Which best describes you? 

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