Eph 4:32 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
We’ve been charting a brief course on the theme of forgiveness. Why should we forgive? Because we have been forgiven so abundantly. How we should forgive? is summarized above, “as God in Christ has forgiven you.” To answer this, we considered the metaphor of cancelling another’s debt.1 But what are some other helpful considerations in how Christian forgiveness should operate?
First, it’s extent or frequency should have no limit. Jesus responds to Peter’s question, “Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother?”2 In long-term relationships, we can have a similar approach, especially if we’ve forgiven the same person repeatedly. We bear the hurt, while they go on sinning. There is a solution to that problem – but it is not to curb our forgiveness. We can’t say, “I’ll forgive you this one last time.” Or, “Forget it, this time you’ve crossed the line.” In certain circumstances, the consequences of sin can be meted out, but we are still responsible to forgive extensively. The Lord certainly does so for us.
Second, it should be a permanent transaction. In Psalm 103:12, David writes, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Often, I hear the cliché, “I’ll forgive, but I don’t forget.” But God’s forgiveness, and therefore Christian forgiveness, is different. He promises, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”3 God, in His omniscience hasn’t forgotten, it has not slipped His mind, but He will no longer call our sins to account in His bar of justice. They were once-for-all laid upon Christ!4 Therefore, when we forgive others, we are to forgive completely. The Lord certainly has done so for us.
Third, our forgiveness should come from a broader attitude of love. Ephesians 4:31 mentions what should be absent from our attitude, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” That’s a tall order if we’ve been sinned against. We can’t really forgive if these are still plaguing our soul. They need to be “put away”. In their place, Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted…” This leads into the act of forgiveness. When we forgive others, we are to forgive genuinely… “from the heart.”5 After all, God has forgiven us this way.
Fourth, our abiding in Christ is where we find the power to forgive. It is hard to forgive, especially when we’ve been seriously wronged. Christ who bore our sins is our King, Shepherd and Friend, who can comfort us, grieve with us, and rejoice in us when we follow Him in this difficult act. Mark 11:25 is a great reminder that the power to forgive begins in prayer. This prepares us with the right attitude, motivation and basis to forgive well. We are to forgive prayerfully and readily. This is the posture He has taken towards us.
Personally, when I prepare to forgive, I think of how wonderful God’s forgiveness was to me. It is an indescribable gift! When I forgive like Him, I am giving a divine and invaluable gift.
Thanks! See you Sunday,
1 Matt. 18:21-35
2 Matt. 18:21
3 Isaiah 43:25
4 Isaiah 53:4-6
5 Matt. 18:35