The Role of Sincerity in Forgiveness
Written by Jay Yeager
Friday, 24 September 2010 19:05

The Role of Sincerity in Forgiveness 

This lesson will focus on the role of sincerity (or in some cases the lack of sincerity) in forgiveness. In reality, no area of our lives would either be complete or fulfilling without sincerity (Sincerity: to be honest, genuine). In religious matters sincerity is an expected thing. I mention a few for your consideration.


Sincerity in the service of God: Just before challenging the people to choose who they would serve (Joshua 24:15), Joshua placed before the people the correct choice and the proper manner of service. “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Joshua 24:14).


Sincerity in the love for Christ: Beyond the command to love God (Matthew 22:37-38), and the test of that love (John 14:15; I John 5:3), there is the attitude of love. “Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Ephesians 6:24).


Sincerity in preaching the word: Follow carefully to a section of scripture that is absolutely thoughtful. “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as the many which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (II Corinthians 2:15-17).


The apostle Paul knew that the word of God preached faithfully would have an effect, both positive and negative. Hearts would be searched (Hebrews 4:12), saving some and condemning others, the word would accomplish its purpose (Isaiah 55:11). Just as he knew that there would be those who were unconcerned with preaching the truth, but he refused to share in their corruption. The first five words of Ephesians 4:15 would express both his mind and heart “But speaking the truth in love…”


Now, in addressing the role of sincerity in forgiveness, I would like to look at our subject in three ways:

  1. Sincerity in seeking forgiveness from God.
  2. Sincerity in seeking forgiveness from a brother.
  3. Sincerity in forgiving a brother.

Sincerity in seeking forgiveness from God: Christians have a wonderful promise from God, that he will forgive their sins when they do what is required of them; namely, repentance and confession. A principle taught in the Old Testament; “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalms 32:1).


“I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalms 32:5).


“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsake them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).


A truth taught plainly in the New Testament. After the terrible thoughts of Simon are revealed in his request to purchase the ability to confer spiritual gifts, Peter said unto him, “…Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:20-22). 


Couple that with the assurance given in I John 1:8-10. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”. There is the promise; if we repent of our sins and confess them we will be forgiven!


However, forgiveness is not given to those who fail or refuse to do what God requires to be forgiven. Tragically, there are those who never address sin the way they should, and the Bible speaks frankly about it. The language of I John 5:16-17 ought to cause each of us to pause and consider what is being taught.


 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death”. 

What is the sin unto death that we are not to pray for? I believe that the answer can be found in an Old Testament account, where God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people.

“Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor pray for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16).


One chapter later we are given the reason why Jeremiah was told not to pray for them. “I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rushes into battle” (Jeremiah 8:6).


What is the sin unto death? The sin a Christian will not repent and confess to the Father. Now, what have we learned? Sin is serious, forgiveness is available, but you must address sin the way God requires!


Sincerity in seeking forgiveness from a brother: That we can sin against a brother is certainly taught in the scriptures (Luke 17:3-4), and some of the ways are as follows:

  1. An attitude of indifference, unconcerned with issues that a weak brother may be struggling with (I Corinthians 8:10-13).
  2. Words that wound or cause strife, backbiting can be so destructive (I Timothy 5:13; II Thessalonians 3:11; III John 10). There is a warning all of us need to heed, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15)
  3. Monetarily, a brother may defraud another (I Corinthians 6:5-8).

If we sin against a brother, there is a responsibility to correct any wrong done, so much so, that a person’s spiritual devotion to God is affected until the matter is settled. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).


The words, “Forgive me” not only mend the relationship of individual members, they can restore the harmony of a congregation that may have been caught in the middle. That being true, and it is, why are the words “forgive me” so hard to utter? I believe I know why the words that needs to be said, so often remain unsaid.


Pride gets in the way. A brother or sister knows they are wrong, but they cannot bring themselves to address it. Pride ties the tongue. There is a reason that God warns of its destructive nature (Proverbs 16:18), further, that he resist those who are filled with it (I Peter 5:5), and refuses to listen to their prayers (Luke 18:10-14). In light of that, would one be too proud to say “I repent, forgive me”? Not if we had the attitude of Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves”. Possess that attitude and forgiveness will be sought after when we sin against a brother.


Sincerity in forgiving a brother: The responsibility to resolve a damaged relationship between brethren is not limited to those who do the offending. The need to be willing to hear the words “forgive me” on the part of the offended, and then give that forgiveness. The gospel of Christ removed forgiveness from the realm of opinion and makes it an obligation.


“Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).


Notice please, that Jesus does not say, if you brother sins against you, silently nurse a grudge for years, or even in some cases generational, passing the bad feelings down the family line. No, that’s not the answer. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, address the matter for his sake and for yours. If repentance follows, forgive him.


A desire to forgive ought to be the goal. If it is not, you may be destroying a bridge that you yourself need to cross. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). How often do I need to forgive him? How often do you want to be forgiven?


I close with some things we need to put away from our lives, and some things we need to embrace in our lives. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. (Ephesians 4:31-32).