Doris still remembers the shame brought to her by her uncle’s sin. She had been violated as a young teen and had lived with the awfulness of that sin for years. Bitterness toward the offender had taken root in her heart, and she felt cold and empty.
After hearing a message on forgiveness, Doris knew that she had to forgive her uncle, but he was completely out of her life, and had heard that he’d even left the country. She had no idea how to contact him. If he wasn’t confronted with his sin and given the chance to repent and ask forgiveness what was she to do?
The type of forgiveness that Doris needs to give is vertical forgiveness. This is forgiveness that is directed to God, and occurs when you are praying. When God brings a person to your mind that you have not forgiven, and there’s no chance for you to speak with them and rebuke them in love, you grant forgiveness based on the knowledge of how much you have been forgiven. When we realize the debt we owe the Lord for the forgiveness He has granted us, based on the cross-work of Christ, we should be willing to forgive others on that truth alone.
Vertical forgiveness would also apply if you approach someone about their sin towards you, and they refuse to make it right; they won’t repent. We are not free to hold onto our bitterness simply because they are unrepentant. Vertical forgiveness has no conditions placed upon it.
The kind of forgiveness that we talked about last Thursday was rebuking a brother about his sin. He repents, and you forgive. That is Horizontal forgiveness. This is directed toward the offender, not God. The condition is his repentance. Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. However, if he doesn’t repent, then we apply Mark 11:25 and forgive based on our relationship with God and His forgiveness of our sin.
This truth can change our lives. Living with unforgiveness in our hearts has the power to turn us into bitter old women! If you have a situation where you have been sinned against and are still waiting for the offender to ask forgiveness, look no further. Instead, look at the cross and see your sin nailed there. See Christ suffering in your place, and forgive that person in the same manner in which you have been forgiven.