Another brother in Christ and I went through a very difficult and painful relational mess. It wasn’t as if either of us intentionally hurt one another, but our decisions and personalities clashed and conflicted. Both could claim to be right. And, both of us were also wrong.
The irony – and challenge – was that we were both in Christian ministry, seeking to lead people to Christlikeness. How could we authentically serve Jesus if we were not willing to reconcile and forgive?
Look to the Scandalous Forgiver
If we think we are being wronged, consider God. God is the most offended and sinned against Being there is. A child can deeply wound a parent like no one else. Lying to our parents or taking advantage of their love is grievous. We’ve all been guilty of that to some degree or know how it feels. So, consider what our Heavenly Father is confronted by? Yet, God is the Forgiver.
If we think we are being wronged, consider God. God is the most offended and sinned against Being there is.
Scripture teems with the overcoming power of forgiveness that is inherent in God’s very nature:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5)
God is a scandalous Forgiver. It is almost unjust that God forgives! If anyone has reason to withhold forgiveness, it is the Creator who breathed life into us, lavished us with abundance, only to receive our blatant snubbing, disobedience and rejection.
Yet, God actively looks to forgive. God searches for a reason to have mercy. It will be not his wrath (as justified as it is) but forgiveness that will prove powerful enough to move us to join him as his ambassadors in a world of offense and sin.
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you, there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (Psalm 130:3-4).
Remember that Forgiveness Comes at a Cost
Forgiveness – though powerful – does not come cheap. God took upon himself the high cost that forgiving requires and demands. Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood are what makes forgiveness possible. Forgiveness takes a powerful love. Christians celebrate this costly love at the Lord’s Table: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Through the humility of repentance and coming home to the Father through Jesus’ sacrifice, we find forgiveness, the restoration of relationships, and are commissioned to join the movement of forgiveness that transforms relationships and societies. This, too, will not come cheap.
The followers of Christ pray together for forgiveness, “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Forgiveness is a serious and central business in God’s eyes.
Confronted by the great forgiveness of God and the call to be like him in the parable of the unmerciful servant, Christians who refuse to offer forgiveness stand exposed and punished before the Merciful Master: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 28:35).
The Holy Spirit breathes within the disciples the power of forgiveness: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:22-23). Followers of Christ are empowered to forgive.
With all this being true and Good News, how could I resist the journey of forgiveness with my brother in Christ? We worked at it. It took time. But, we forgave one another and embraced. We even washed one another’s feet. We found new freedom and power.
Slow Down and Consider
What have you needed forgiveness for? How big was – or is – that pile? How bad is the smell? In Christ, there is the forgiveness of sins. In Christ, we are made right with God. No more condemnation. Period.
Pause and worship. Then, pay attention to any relationships (past or present) where you are harbouring offense and unforgiveness. Are you applying the same power of forgiveness in those relationships that you have experienced from your Heavenly Father?
What practical steps toward forgiveness do you need to take? Where do you have opportunity as a follower of Christ to participate in the power of forgiveness?