By Greg Quinn

November 9th, 2010

If you have ever had any kind of relationship, and we all have, then you have encountered a need for forgiveness. This is something, just like sin, that affects us all. Every one of us has been in a situation where forgiveness is required of us, and in a situation where forgiveness is required of others. Because none of us are perfect, and we all mess up on a regular basis, then we all need forgiveness.

If you are married, you fully understand. Especially if you are a guy. I've heard it said that women are crazy, guys are stupid, and women are crazy because guys are stupid. Probably right. There's probably not a day that goes by that the guy in the relationship (especially if you ask the woman) doesn't do something worthy of needing forgiveness.

If you are a parent, you understand the need for forgiveness. If you didn't forgive your kids, especially when it's 3 months past the time they turn 16, then you'd be spending the rest of your lives in prison for murder.

If you are a child and have parents, then you should understand forgiveness. Parents are often just like their children, except they just make mistakes of a different sort. Children need to forgive their parents just like parents need to forgive their kids.

Perhaps some of the toughest relationships are among siblings, brothers and sisters. I never had a sister, but have talked to folks who have, and oftentimes there is just as hearty of fighting between sister and sister or brother and sister as between brother and brother. What I know about firsthand is the relationships between brother and brother. Or brother times 4 (as I have 3 brothers, therefore 4 of us Quinn boys).

Growing up with 3 younger brothers created an atmosphere of constant fighting. As the oldest, I felt the need to correct the others. Problem. With my brother Jeff being just seventeen months younger than I, and for the most part much bigger than I, he didn't take kindly to my commands. Problem. Boge was next, and being a middle child a good whipping post. Problem. And my youngest brother Anthony (Mule we call him, but not for the reason you might think), being the baby, was always right. Problem. So, four enthusiastic boys from the woods of rural Tennessee being brought up in a strict household (our dad a Baptist preacher) in the 50s-70s caused a constant dose of fighting.

Although we fought almost constantly, we for the most part forgave each other almost as often. If not, one or more of us wouldn't be around any more. And, we were very defensive with others. And so on. I would hit Jeff in the mouth, he'd throw a knife at me. I'd break my toe while playing "Kung Fu" with Mule, he'd cry and I'd get a beating. We'd turn the lights out on Boge and laugh when he'd bust his eye on the coffee table; and of course we'd be punished. I once gave Mule Feen-a-mint (laxative) and told him it was Chiclets; he had diarrhea in the mall and I got a beating. Jeff and I would fight and the only thing that would break it up is with Dad joining in. Etc. Constant fighting. But the next day or the day after, we'd forget it and be having fun together.

If we can sock a brother in the eye one day and forget it about it the next as children, why cannot we forgive a brother today of an offense yesterday?

Colossians 3:13 says, "Accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive."

Just last week Jeff and I got into an argument. What it was over really wasn't that important, but Jeff is a perfectionist, which leads to a big ego. Also, I have a big ego. Both of us were therefore right, and neither of us was willing to be wrong. Then we got Boge involved as well. So, just as it was as children, we'd puff up and fight (but as adults verbally instead of with fists). But, while children forget the next day, it isn't so easy with adults. Why is that?

For one to forgive, we must first admit that we were wrong. And, for those of us who are selfish and have big egos (and that's probably 90% of the global population), forgiveness tends to be a huge problem.

Back to me and my brothers as an example. As the oldest, I think that I should be respected by my little brothers. After all, I did well in school, made good grades, was President of our band, was awarded honors in high school, went on to college, etc. I enjoyed a good career in the US space program, working on significant NASA projects such as space station, shuttle, Hubble, etc. I started a technology consulting firm in the early 90s that developed into one of the most respected organizational development firms in North America. I have worked with the "who's who" of technology companies across the country. I have spoken at business seminars around the US. I have launched some significant technologies into the global marketplace. Additionally, I have been active politically, and have received numerous awards from the National Republican Congressional Commission. Also, I have been a respected minister of the Gospel, having accepted the call to ministry in 1983, and have served as Evangelist, Pastor, Associate Pastor, Minister of Youth, Minister of Music, various teaching positions, etc. over the years. I started an Internet ministry to reach youth, have spoken at youth conferences, and developed programs for churches to enhance their ministry outreach to the youth. I am one of three owners of Gunblast. com, the first and by far the largest online gun test magazine, and write some articles for the Politics & Opinion and the entire Greg's Corner sections of this website (as well as an occasional product review), and Gunblast. com now has more than 800,000 monthly readers. With all this as a backdrop, I should be respected and therefore shouldn't get into arguments with my brothers anymore, right? WRONG. None of these accomplishments that may look good on a resume mean squat in relationships. What matters is not what I have done, but how I treat others. If I mess up, I should ask for forgiveness. If others mistreat me, I should forgive them. Nothing else matters.

My brother Jeff did well in school without trying. Always big, he didn't have much trouble with people picking on him (unlike the smaller geeks like me in school). Jeff followed after our dad in the glass business, and became successful in that industry, later opening his own window contracting company, which he has run for 14 years. Jeff always liked guns, and decided to start writing about them after reading so many inaccurate reviews in paper magazines a little over ten years ago, with the idea to start an online gun magazine, getting information to readers in a much more timely fashion than could be done with the paper press. We have an international following on Gunblast. com, and are respected around the world as one of the top authorities on guns. Jeff is a very good writer, and he has his own unique style. Jeff's success, like mine, leads to a big ego, a big head, and therefore problems at times. But doesn't Jeff's success outweigh the requirement that he should forgive others? WRONG. Jeff's accomplishments ring true, but they don't mean a thing in relationships with others. What matters is not what Jeff has accomplished, but how he treats others in relationships. If Jeff messes up, he should ask for forgiveness. If others mistreat Jeff, he should forgive them, and he always does.

My little brother, Boge (me calling him little is not quite justified) has always been a kind, peaceable kid. Boge was loveable and smiled a lot. Everyone loved Boge. They still do. So, he was a good target for "meaner" siblings like me. Therefore, I mistreated Boge. It took a lot to get him mad, but once that happened, he'd get even. And as we got older, that got tougher to take. Boge is a gifted artist, both with a pen and with a musical instrument. He has recorded several albums, he has performed in both Bluegrass and Gospel groups, and he is the Music Minister at our hometown Church (he, Jeff, Mom and Dad all attend there). Boge's artwork is very good indeed, quite amazing actually. He is very talented. Boge is the one that takes Jeff's articles and makes them look good. As Webmaster, Boge has turned Gunblast. com into a very respected and good-looking online magazine. But, with all Boge's talents, don't his capabilities overcome the requirement that he forgive others, or ask forgiveness of others? WRONG. As talented as Boge is, there is nothing in talent that offsets the requirement to forgive. If Boge messes up, he should ask for forgiveness. If others mistreat Boge, he should forgive them.

Our baby brother Anthony (or Mule) was so pretty as a child that he won beauty contests, and probably should have been a girl. So, obviously, we picked on him. Mule was very hard to get angry. But once he did, watch out. Mule was some 6 or so years younger than I, and four years younger than Jeff, so he didn't get in fights with us as much as Jeff, Boge, and I. But, he was the one that we blamed things on (especially when he was too young to claim otherwise). Today, Mule runs a very successful glass company in North Carolina. He has a nice wife and 3 boys (who surprisingly don't fight like we did as children). He is very devoted to his family, and Mule is still a very loving person. As good as my baby brother Mule is, he should escape the requirement to forgive, right? WRONG. Forgiveness is for everyone. Mule should forgive others, and ask for forgiveness for those he has wronged as well.

So, if I can use as an example how four brothers that love each other dearly, but that often fought like cats and dogs, can forgive each other even when we don't want to do so, doesn't that extend into the other relationships that any of us have? If four brothers who have each been successful in their own right can admit when they are wrong, even when it is tough, then doesn't that prove that ego and selfishness have no place in relationships?

Oftentimes the lack of forgiveness stems from our thinking too greatly of ourselves.

Matthew 18: 1-4: "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." 

Little children act with humility. You treat them with kindness, and they respond. They have no pretense. They move in pure faith and belief that those they love will only do what is best for them. Jesus was teaching his disciples, those who followed him the closest and to whom Jesus was placing the building of the kingdom of God on earth, that the greatest person in the kingdom of heaven was one that was humble as a little child. Later in this same passage, Jesus taught his disciples (and us) the importance of forgiveness. 

Matthew 18: 21-35: "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." 

In the Gospel of Mark, we see a situation that is often quoted to teach us about faith. But right after Jesus teaches his followers about faith, he concludes the lesson with words about forgiveness. 

Mark 11: 12-18, 19-25: The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. (v19) When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Jesus says that if we are to ask things of God with faith, as we are praying, first forgive others so that God will forgive us. I'd say that Jesus thinks forgiveness is very important. In fact, forgiveness is so important to God, that the nature of forgiveness caused something so miraculous to occur that it totally changed the world; past, present, and future.

God created man and woman. They lived in the garden of Eden and knew no wrong. Satan tempted them, and man and woman sinned, creating for the first time a wedge (enmity, barrier) between a perfect Holy God and a sinful man. Because God is Holy, He cannot tolerate sin (wrongdoing). He knew that man would try on their own to come back to God, but He knew that as much as they tried, they couldn't do it alone. God allowed them to try for centuries. He gave them the Law (10 Commandments) in order for them to try to work their salvation back toward a Holy God. Man couldn't do it. God allowed them to offer sacrifices of birds, goats, sheep, oxen, etc. as a substitution penalty for their sin. It was only temporary. Man would do wrong again, and there they would be in trouble with God. God's wrath resulted in death. God knew that there was only one way for Him to forgive mankind of their sin, their evil doing, and this was to provide a permanent substitution in replacement of what man earned through their sin ("for the wages of sin is death"). The only worthwhile substitution of total forgiveness between a Holy Creator and His sinful creation was God's own Son, Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whomsoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). So, a miracle occurred. God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin in a manger, to live a life of sinless perfection, and to offer up Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, to die in our place. Jesus died a cruel death on a cross for one reason: to provide the means of forgiveness between God and man. Jesus arose from the dead, and stands at the right hand of God the Father even today to be the go-between, the attorney pleading our case, for those that have accepted His sacrifice and have received God's forgiveness.

Therefore, if forgiveness is such a big deal with God, so big that He gave His only Son to make up for our wrongdoing, shouldn't forgiveness be a big deal with us?

If we but learned to forgive, there would be no need for prisons. If we but learned to forgive, there would be no divorces and split homes. If we but learned to forgive, people would live in harmony and peace. Nations wouldn't rise against nation. Wars would cease. Families would get along. Husbands would cherish their wives and wives would love their husbands. Children would be respectful. Churches would again be the central point of our communities. We would see peace.

Forgiveness is a big deal. It is a commandment. God said he couldn't forgive us unless we forgave others.

An unforgiving spirit harms the one holding it much greater than the one the unforgiveness is against. And, an unforgiving spirit keeps you from obtaining forgiveness from God. And, if you don't get forgiveness from God, your prayers are not answered. Life on earth, and especially the hereafter, is truly Hell without God's forgiveness.

So, when you do something wrong to another, before it festers, go to that person and ask their forgiveness. If someone does something wrong to you, offer your forgiveness. Forgiveness requires humility, laying down your ego, and admitting you have been wrong.

Once that humility and ego are laid aside, and we very humbly ask of another person the forgiveness for the wrong we have placed upon them, or we humbly offer our forgiveness for wrongs placed upon us, then something fascinating happens. The peace of God comes upon us, the ability for God to answer our prayers shines upon us, and we can then truly see God in our lives.

Forgiveness. An eleven-letter word that means so much. An eleven-letter word that determines the difference between joy and sadness, between peace and unrest, between answered prayers and unanswered prayers. Forgiveness. A healing between people. Even brothers.

Greg Quinn