Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), Christ taught us to pray. But it is most difficult even for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, to forgive as He forgave us. The true spirit of forgiveness is so little practised [sic], and so many interpretations are placed upon Christ’s requirement, that its force and beauty are lost sight of. We have very uncertain views of the great mercy and loving-kindness of God. He is full of compassion and forgiveness, and freely pardons when we truly repent and confess our sins. But when the message of God’s pardoning love comes from a heart that has an experimental knowledge of it, to those who have not experienced it for themselves, it is like speaking in parables. We must bring into our characters the love and sympathy expressed in Christ’s life.
Peter, when brought to the test, sinned greatly. In denying the Master he had loved and served, he became a cowardly apostate. But his Lord did not cast him off; He freely forgave him. After the resurrection, an angel told the women who came to the tomb with spices, to carry the glad news of a risen Lord to the “disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). And when afterward Christ thrice repeated the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” Peter cast himself on the tender mercy of the Master he had so wronged, and said, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15). And when our Lord entrusted to him the care of his sheep and lambs, Peter knew that he was taken back into divine confidence and affection. To fulfil this charge, he would need to have the mind that was in Jesus Christ; he must copy the Pattern. Henceforth, remembering his own weakness and failures, he would be patient with his brethren in their mistakes and errors. Remembering the patient love of Christ, who had afforded him another opportunity, he would be more conciliatory toward erring ones.
If we have received the gift of God, and have a knowledge of Jesus Christ, we have a work to do for others. We must imitate the long-suffering of God toward us. The Lord requires of us the same treatment toward His followers that we receive of Him. We are to exercise patience and to be kind, even though they do not meet our expectations. The Lord expects us to be pitiful and loving, to have sympathetic hearts. He desires us to show the fruits of the grace of God in our deportment one to another. Christ did not say, You may tolerate your neighbor, but, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). This means a great deal more than professing Christians carry out in their daily life.
When Christ was on earth, instead of removing from the commandments one jot or tittle of their force, He showed by precept and example how far-reaching their principles are, how much broader they are than the scribes and Pharisees thought. They thought that Christ was lowering the Old Testament standard, yet He was teaching the people practical godliness. Christ understood their feelings, and reproved these self-righteous rulers in these words to His disciples; “I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (verses 17–19).
Christ proceeds to teach that the principles of God’s law reach even to the intents and purposes of the mind. And he plainly states that if we faithfully keep the ten precepts, we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. “Ye have heard,” He says, “that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (verses 43–48).
A consistent religious life, holy conversation, a godly example, true-hearted benevolence, mark the representative of Christ. He will labor to pluck sinners as brands from the burning; he will perform every duty faithfully. Thus he will become a beacon light.
Reader, we are nearing the Judgment. Talents have been lent us on trust. Let none of us be at last condemned as slothful servants. Send forth the words of life to those in darkness. Let the church be true to her trust. Her earnest, humble prayers will make the presentation of truth effectual, and Christ will be glorified.
The Review and Herald, May 19, 1910.