“So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others]. Colossians 3:12-14 AMP
I have been trying to count out how many times in scripture we are told to forgive others as God has forgiven us, or to forgive others so God in turn will forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t a recommendation in scripture but a command. We can’t claim to be a Christian and hold unforgiveness in our hearts.
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6
As far as I can tell or have read…Jesus didn’t hold grudges.
Forgiveness is not something God does, it’s who He is. He doesn’t have to think about it, or decide to do it, it’s part of His character. God’s forgiveness is an expression of His lovingkindness. It doesn’t diminish His righteousness or hold back His justice.
Our God is a forgiving God. We are called to be equally forgiving. I can already hear the heavy sighs as each of us consider those areas we hold on too. Deep hurts we can’t imagine letting go of areas we feel very entitled to cling too. Even though we know that the only person suffering from our unforgiveness is us. You heard me right, we willingly keep ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness so that we can continue to hurt ourselves. Sounds silly when we say it like that, but it’s true.
Unforgiveness’ main victim is us. Please know that I am not trying to diminish any hurt that you may have experienced or make light of the pain you feel as a result. It is my deepest desire that you experience a freedom that can only be found through forgiveness. In Isaiah we hear a recounting by God of Israel’s transgressions, and in the midst of God’s expectations, He makes the most marvelous statement, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (bold added) Isaiah 43:25
Matthew Henry comments on this verse, “as if the great God would teach us that forgiving injuries is the best way to make ourselves easy and to keep ourselves from being wearied with them.” Forgiveness is freedom! It allows us to move forward from our pain toward healing and restoration. Freedom from the bitterness and anguish that can taint every area of our lives.
As we continue to follow Jesus and allow ourselves to be transformed into His likeness by the Holy Spirit, forgiveness becomes part of who we are, not something we do. Yahweh Hesed is the closest name we have to Forgiving God. More specifically Hesed is translated as lovingkindness. Forgiveness, like mercy, compassion, and love, are characteristics of who God is, not what He does. He doesn’t need to think about forgiving, it’s in His nature. The Lord’s forgiveness is an expression of his character, and the more we reflect His character the more our forgiveness will manifest.
For many of us forgiveness is one of those words that can feel like a sucker punch, “how does that person who hurt me so deeply deserve my forgiveness”. I hear you! But let’s acknowledge, at the same time, the truth that none of us deserve forgiveness. None of us can earn forgiveness, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Your forgiveness is not about the person who hurt you, it’s about reflecting God’s character in a way that allows you to move forward and be more like him.
Unforgiveness stunts our growth, it keeps us from forming healthy relationships, it holds us captive and keeps us from healing and restoration. It doesn’t have this effect on those who hurt us, it affects us. Not only are you keeping yourself from the blessing of God’s forgiveness, but you are also continuing to give control of your life over to those who have harmed you, giving them permission to continue to have power over your emotions, and actions.
Forgiveness is hard. A lifetime of bitterness, regret, and condemnation is harder. Scripture is clear, if we want the very best that God has for us, we have to be ready and willing to give the best to others. When asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
We must first love God, to love Him is to know Him. Then we must love others as ourselves. Jesus defined neighbors as everyone else; those we like and those we don’t, those like us and those who are not. We can’t say we love those who we won’t forgive.
Forgiveness needs to become a characteristic of who we are, second nature. We should be inviting God into our everyday lives, to change us to be more like him so that we can let go of our hurts and forgive like He does. God will not tell us to do something we are incapable of doing, but He will ask us to do that which we can only do with Him.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!
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