Forgiveness by Dr. J. Perkins

2 Samuel 16.5-13

When we are forgiven by God, we must accept forgiveness from Him and from others who offer it—that’s another side of forgiveness. We know from Scripture that David learned this lesson. He was forced to flee because his son Absalom challenged him for the throne. As he fled from Jerusalem, Shimei (a relative of Saul) cursed him and told him that he deserved to be run from his kingdom. It was unthinkable that anyone would talk to the king like this. David could have had him killed on the spot for those remarks. But David chose to spare his life because he understood the sovereignty of God. “Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today” (vv. 11b–12).

But when Absalom had been killed and David was returning in victory to reclaim his rightful position on the throne, it was Shimei who met him on the way and asked for forgiveness (vv. 16–23). When David’s men suggested that Shimei should die because he had cursed David, David said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” David had learned the lesson of forgiveness. Those who have been forgiven much should be ready to give forgiveness freely.

I think about that a lot today. I suppose that is what has fueled my zeal to love everybody. I remember the heavy weight of anger and bitterness I carried. I was angry about being mistreated just because of the color of my skin. I was angry about what happened to my brother Clyde. I was angry about the systems at work in Mississippi that kept my people at a substandard level of living. I was angry. And it was a deep, abiding anger. It would either explode and destroy me and everybody around me—or God would have to take it away and show me how to move forward. He did that for me. He forgave me of my thoughts of taking revenge and getting even. He forgave me for all of it. And He showed me how to channel that energy into work that would please Him.

That was many years ago. And I’m full of gratitude that the Lord did that in my heart. But the truth is that He has had to continue that work in my heart again and again. When I hear about mistreatment of people and see the wrong that is taking place right in front of my eyes, I have to take the anger back to Him. And I have to forgive those who are doing the mistreating, because I have been forgiven much.

My friends say that I’ve been talking about dying for the last forty years and they laugh. I think I’m finding that God wants us to live with this death of the old man. When the apostle Paul said he had to “die daily,” I think this is what he was talking about. I don’t want my old thoughts. I need to remind myself daily that I’ve died to that old self who harbored anger and hatred. I rejoice in knowing that He has forgiven me. But His forgiveness scares me. I’m afraid that I might start sinning knowing that He’s so gracious. We’ve got to live within that tension.

That may be what’s missing today. There’s so much anger. Everybody seems to be angry about something or other. We’re expressing that anger in words that destroy and in actions that divide. We’re sinning and covering up our sin instead of confessing it. We have become victimized by our own unforgiveness. We’re doing this as individuals and as a nation. And our hearts have become stony and hard, holding all that anger and sin inside. God is the friend who can handle all our anger. He can heal our hurts and give us purpose and direction. But we must become broken over our sin, as David did.

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