Mar 9

Session 5 Recap: Lane, “Practicing Forgiveness: What to Do When You Fail”

2013 | by Tim Bradley | Category: Clarus 13

Editor’s Note: Tim Bradley is Pastor for Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Timothy Lane’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 9, “Practicing Forgiveness: What to Do When You Fail,” from Matthew 18:21-35.


In Dr. Timothy Lane’s final message at Clarus 2013, he spoke about the importance of practicing forgiveness in our relationships. He stated that while it is critically important to the health of our relationships, and an essential part of our faith in Christ, it is one of the least practiced things we do. Dr. Lane states, “We think we do it, but we don’t.”

Dr. Lane opened his message by asking, “Is there any hope when we fail?” And then answering with an emphatic “Yes!” he said our hope in the midst of our failures in that we know and embody the grace that we have received in Christ. In other words, it is our knowing the grace and forgiveness of God, and then extending this same grace and forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. This practice of forgiving others, states Dr. Lane, is not something reserved for the extraordinary, unusual and infrequent moments of life only, but rather something that is to be practiced daily.

After introducing us to the subject of practicing forgiveness, Dr. Lane suggests nine important truths from the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

  1. What exactly is forgiveness? It is not just canceling the debt, but is absorbing the cost of the debt yourself. The Master in the parable absorbs the debt of the first servant. God absorbs our debt as Jesus suffers and dies for our sin, and we practice biblical forgiveness by canceling and absorbing the debt of another when they sin against us.
  2. Failure to forgive is when we make them pay. The first servant in the parable, who had been forgiven his debt by the Master, requires that the second servant pay the debt he owed. The first servant failed to forgive the second servant, and we fail to forgive when we make others pay for their sins against us rather than showing mercy.
  3. Forgiveness is an event and an ongoing process. Truly forgiving another is difficult, yet we must forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and keep on forgiving in our hearts, attitudes and actions.
  4. Failure to forgive turns victims into victimizers. This is clearly seen when the first servant, who was owed a debt by the second servant, fails to forgive, and then literally begins to choke him. We will become victimizers if we fail to forgive.
  5. Forgiveness is not peace at all costs. Here we back up in Matthew 18 to verse 15, and see that where sin persists, confrontation and discipline is right, God-honoring, and loving.
  6. Forgiving others is costly. It cost the Master much (ten thousand talents) to forgive the first servant, and it would have cost the first servant much (one hundred denarii) to forgive the second servant. It will cost us much to practice forgiveness.
  7. Forgiveness is first vertical, and then horizontal. Practicing forgiveness begins with our vertical relationship with God who forgives our sin. Practicing forgiveness continues when those who have been forgiven by God forgive another who has sinned against them.
  8. Forgiveness is not forgetting. The term “remembering” found in Jeremiah 31:34 is a covenant promise word, not a memory word. God is omniscient, so He doesn’t have any memory malfunctions. God promises to not treat us according to what our sins deserve, and in this sense He “remembers our sins no more.” We are to forgive like God has forgiven us, so we are to make a covenant promise to not treat another according to what they deserve, but we don’t always forget.
  9. The way we ask for and grant forgiveness is crucial. Simply saying, “I’m sorry” without asking for forgiveness when we have sinned against another diminishes our sin and the other person, and does not glorify God. Saying, “It’s ok” when another person has sinned against you and then apologized tells them it is ok for them to sin. When we sin against another, we need to acknowledge our sin, ask them for forgiveness, and repent. When we are sinned against, and forgiveness is sought, and repentance pursued, then we are to grant forgiveness – make the promises to not use it against them, not talk to others about their sin, and not dwell on it.

Dr. Lane concluded by asking the very practical and important question, “Why don’t we forgive?” He answers first by stating we don’t forgive because we really don’t think we need to be forgiven. We don’t truly know the forgiveness of God, nor believe we need it, and therefore we don’t forgive. Next he says we don’t forgive because we don’t think we’re forgivable. Either in pride, we can’t accept God’s forgiveness, or in shame we don’t remember and receive God’s forgiveness. We essentially forget the grace, love and forgiveness of God, so we fail to forgive others. Finally, Dr. Lane states that we don’t forgive because the utter amazement and shock of the gospel has waned within our hearts. Amazing Grace, is not so amazing to us…we have forgotten. He sums it up by saying, “If you’re not experiencing God’s monsoon of grace, then grace won’t flow out!”

May we be transformed by the amazing grace and forgiveness of God into those who practice the grace and forgiveness we have so richly received!