Called to Live in Forgiveness
God is slow to anger and ready to forgive, abounding in mercy. He longs to be able to forgive us. Broken relationships break His heart. Jesus made it possible for Him to forgive us by taking our sins on Himself and bearing the wrath and judgement of God that was rightfully ours, thus setting us free to receive God’s forgiveness. We are all equal in God’s sight, all are sinners saved by grace. We are a forgiven people called to be a forgiving people. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that we are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
By teaching His disciples to pray for forgiveness as they have forgiven others, Jesus reminds them, and us, that being forgiven is dependent on forgiving others. Unless we forgive others who have wronged us, we will not ourselves receive forgiveness from God. (Matthew 6:12, 14,15). When we withhold forgiveness from another we are being disobedient to God’s command to love one another as He has loved us and as we love ourselves, and disobedience is sin. Until we forgive the other person and confess our sin before God, we cannot expect God to forgive us. When we are unforgiving we are hurting ourselves more than the one who hurt us.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you or caused you pain is not easy, but it is not impossible if we walk in the light of His forgiveness of our sins. We have the Holy Spirit to help us do what is right. Moreover, Jesus has left an example for us to follow, having been reviled He did not revile and on the contrary He prayed for their forgiveness. (1 Peter 2.23).
Looking at others through the eyes of Jesus, and seeing them as objects of His love and compassion, might help us to reach out to them in the love of Jesus. Showing them compassion and loving them as Jesus does will go a long way towards healing our own hurt. Praying for them in the Holy Spirit and asking God’s grace for them will change our own attitudes. None of us has suffered as much as Christ suffered for us, and if He can forgive His enemies, by His grace so can we.
As Charles Spurgeon said, “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven.” (cited by John Piper in Desiring God.)
Let not the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). Is there anyone whom you need to forgive. Be reconciled to them without further delay. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by holding on to any grudges you may have. Take them and lay them at the foot of the cross where they rightfully belong, then seek the Father’s forgiveness and enjoy restored relationship with Him.
Father in Heaven, we seek your forgiveness for the many times we have grieved your Holy Spirit by being judgmental and not readily forgiven others. Help us to focus on your example as you prayed for your enemies from the cross and to show the same love and generosity that He showed. Teach us what it means to live in forgiveness.