Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Note from Kip…
We’ve talked about forgiveness before, but this morning I felt like there was something that had been omitted from earlier conversations regarding forgiveness, that could use some focus. As I sit here, I’m unsure of where this is going, to be certain, but simply know that it needs to be a path we explore.
Not from us
The first point I want to make is that true forgiveness comes from within us, but doesn’t come from us. It is a parsing out of that which has been imparted to us through Grace.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (HCSB)
True forgiveness is from God, not us. We give that which is given to us by Grace. The Grace of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is a central theme that is pronounced time and time again in the scripture. And yet, often it is one of the hardest things we can do. Forgiving someone who has injured us, can be hard. The more cruel and cutting, the greater the the difficulty.
At the same time, the greater the injury the greater the need for us to in turn forgive, because of what that forgiveness does.
True forgiveness, is in fact love’s cleansing of wrong. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I don’t have to convince any believer that Christ’s forgiveness imparted to us is an act of His Love.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (HCSB)
This love that God had for us while we were yet sinners, was the core of our forgiveness. God didn’t send His Son to visit, teach, or take account of how things were going here. God knew exactly what was the circumstances involve in our state. We were blind, destitute, corrupted beyond recognition and in desperate need of hope, in a world where hope doesn’t exists outside of the Love of God!
This could just as accurately be written, “God so loved the world that He chose to forgive and sent His Son to impart that forgiveness.”
The cause and effect is the same. The intent of the mission for Jesus Christ was to in fact redeem God’s lost possession. To forgive and to construct a path to salvation.
We think of salvation and get all giddy about Heaven and eternal life and that’s not a bad thing, it is part of the package. But what salvation really is all about is to pull us from the darkness into God’s amazing Light. To forgive us, and free us from the bonds of sin and death so that we can be His and He ours. Forgiveness is Love in action!
And God did it, He acted. He imparted His love through grace, which results in our forgiveness. It cleanses us so that we may be redeemed.
Pass it on
It doesn’t stop at us. Or I guess I should say, it should never stop at us.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)
It’s imperative for us to forgive. If we do not we only harm ourselves because while forgiveness is love in action, not to forgive holds the hurt inside us. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” How? By forgiving. Why? “Forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” That’s one reason. Perhaps even the most important one.
But there is another that is important as well. Because of the cleansing action of forgiveness. While forgiving someone may ease the conscious of the one being forgiven, it has the greatest impact on the the one who is forgiving.
Forgiving takes the hurt inside, the wounds of the injury we suffered and cleans it with love. Purifying the wound and allowing it to at last heal and stop festering inside us. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander.”, through forgiveness. These aren’t being removed from the one you forgive they are being cleansed from the one who forgives.
Until we can take the love in us and use it to forgive, those wounds remain in us and fester continually. There is a saying that ‘Time heals all wounds’. That is a lie. Time doesn’t. Forgiveness does!
Another thing that I heard and have always remember is the analogy of someone who refuses to forgiving and harboring the hurt from that inside is akin to someone drinking a vial of poison and waiting for the offender to die from it. Harboring unforgiven acts in our hearts only harms us, not the other person!
Only Christians Can Forgive
I’m not saying that at all. I will say that a believer has a greater ability to forgive than one who doesn’t have a constant outpouring of God’s love in their life.
Remember, God so loved the world that he gave us that path to forgiveness. So, by merit of this, even while we have yet to confess Jesus as Lord of our lives, we still have experience a portion of His love and forgiveness. It doesn’t matter if we have chosen not to avail ourselves of that Grace. That Grace is still there and has been proffered for us, despite our failure to take advantage of it.
Hence, not to embrace that love is “A waste of Grace!”
Those who are unredeemed have been given a small portion of His love and have more in store should they acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. The problem isn’t ability to use that love and forgive someone, the problem is capacity to do so. If you just have a small cup, it becomes difficult to share that with numerous others. Christians have a greater capacity to forgive because the reservoir from which they draw is infinite in its volume.
The greatest of these is Love!
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13:13 (HCSB)
Remember, forgiveness is love in action. If you have the love of Christ in you then you can and should always forgive regardless of the offense. Because it cleanses you and because He forgives us.
The most amazing verse in the Bible from my way of thinking is this.
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
Romans 5:8 (HCSB)
Before we even were, God had marked a path to forgive us. THAT is how important forgiveness is to God.
If you’re His, forgive. If you’re not, there is a way to be forgiven and to forgive. It is by way of the cross and through Christ Jesus!