“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Have you ever heard anyone say “I just can’t forgive him (or her)”? Have you said it? Perhaps at some time on our journey as followers of Jesus if we have not said it we have thought it.
What a tall order! “Forgiving as God in Christ forgave you.” But, there it is in black and white. What should I take from this? How about you?
Forgiveness is not optional. The text does not begin with”If you should decide to forgive then….”. It says “Forgive“. “Forgiving one another“…implies not only that we are to forgive but we are to be continually forgiving. Being kind and tenderhearted is an attitude toward others, a personality trait of the divine nature. Forgiving must become a way of life. Continual forgiving is continual obedience.
Forgiveness is not limited.
Who are we to forgive? One another. Or, everyone. The perfect plan to never have bitterness and resentment toward others (Christians or non-Chrisiians) is to always be forgiving. There is no person you can’t forgive no matter how awful the offence. How do I know? God says do it!
How are we to forgive? How has God forgiven you in Christ? Freely, before you committed the offence, without you even asking. Your forgiveness was planned before the creation of the earth.
How many times am I to forgive the same person? As often as he needs it. Remember the question asked of Jesus?
“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.” (Matthew 18:21,22) You are to forgive only as long as a person needs it.
The very worst offenders must be forgiven. From the cross where Jesus was dying to make my forgiveness and yours possible he prayed a remarkable prayer. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing“. (Luke 23:34) Clear enough?
How can you know you have forgiven? I suggest you can know that you have forgiven.
When you start treating the person as if you have forgiven them. If you are still keeping a clear record of the offence(‘s), if you are avoiding the person, and worse, if you are still talking to others about the offence you have not forgiven. Only when in all of your person you want what is best for the one you claim to have forgiven have you really forgiven.
Begin praying for the person. More than a few times in my ministry I have suggested to one who was bitter and resentful that they begin at once praying for that person every day asking God to bless them and bring healing and forgiveness and peace to them. I have learned from my own experience and the testimony of others that once you start praying, real forgiveness is right around the corner.
Forgiveness is supernatural! True forgiveness, the kind God has for you, is not natural to humans. Our nature is to retaliate, quarrel, fight, gossip, be bitter and envious. Our new nature, Christ in us, is the source of unselfish love and the ensuing forgiveness that is freely and quickly given as we walk in the Spirit saying NO to our old selves. As we depend on the Comforter to be for us what we can’t be on our own He will not fail!
Do you have some forgiving to do? Better get started!