Posted by: Mike Willoughby | February 1, 2011

Going Viral (Part 3)

My head cold is now a distant memory and so I believe I will wrap up the Going Viral series this week. However, I’ve saved the most viral of all actions for last. If you could only read and meditate on one of these Going Viral articles, this would be the one I would pray for you to read. Paul encourages us in Ephesians 4:32 to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

There is some powerful information for us in this very short verse. Notice that the viral phenomenon of forgiveness begins with you receiving forgiveness. With the first two Going Viral articles, I implied that you should start the viral phenomenon by initiating the act of kindness or charity that could then cascade into a wave of viral kindness and charity. With forgiveness, God began the cascade with each of us. Our challenge is to simply “repay it forward” as we have already received. To not acknowledge our obligation to forgive others is to diminish the outrageous price that was paid by Jesus Christ to secure our forgiveness. The audacity of our unwillingness to forgive the relatively small offenses committed against us (compared with our offenses against God) is illustrated by this parable of Jesus from Matthew 18:21-35.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

That last sentence sends a chill down my spine. Lest I am tempted to dismiss this instruction from the Lord as a mere parable intended only to illustrate a point, He makes it plain as day in His Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In order for forgiveness to work in our lives, we must make it viral. We only stand to receive forgiveness to the extent we are willing to pass it on to others. Unless forgiveness is a viral phenomenon in our lives, it will not even be present in our lives from the only source that really matters – our God!

Finally, I have some advice for you from my own experience. I don’t have any scripture to offer for this advice, but I believe it to be sound. In addition to responding to God’s will for our lives, I believe we should consider two motivations for forgiving others.

The first motivation for forgiving someone is to act in their best interests. This is the agapé love motivation! If I love someone, I will forgive them so that the relationship between the two of us can be healed and possibly strengthened. In my own experience, relationships are made much stronger through the act of giving and receiving forgiveness for life’s offenses.

However, sometimes relationship healing is simply not possible. Sometimes the other party has no interest in giving or receiving forgiveness and is unwilling to even talk. This reality is acknowledged by Paul in Romans 12:18:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Sometimes it doesn’t depend on you and the other party simply has no interest in being at peace with you. In those situations, your motivation for forgiving them should be to act in your own best interest. Allowing blame and condemnation to remain in your heart is a poison to your soul. Furthermore as we read in the passages above, it can interfere with receiving forgiveness from God. In all situations, forgiving those who offend us is simply good for our souls and helps keep us in a right relationship with our Creator. I have personal experience with this in my own life. Although I do not harbor any malice for anyone, that does not mean that all is well with every relationship past or present. Sometimes, even when forgiveness is present, complete healing is not possible – at least in this life.

If you are harboring anger and resentment toward someone in your life, please forgive them now! Release the negative emotions that can darken your heart and poison your soul. Do it for them and do it for yourself!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!
Previous Intersections Articles

Going Viral (Part 2) Going Viral (Part 1) Well Equipped


  1. I really appreciate the article Mike. It reminds me of times when I’ve forgiven someone and then didn’t forgive them for not forgiving me too. What a deadly cycle.

    In my own experiences it wasn’t until I recognized that forgiveness is not reconciliation that I was able to receive grace. Forgiving someone is a singular act and only involves me laying it down at the Masters feet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: