Remember that apology your Mom forced you and your siblings to give each other after yet another childhood fight…one that was grudging given and half-heartedly accepted? On a good day you would go back to playing together. On a bad day, you would go to separate corners of the house to mope about the unfairness of the other. Too often this is our view of forgiveness…a forced apology and mumbled acceptance.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
- We fail to forgive because we forget how we have been forgiven
By nature we are sinners…children of wrath (Eph 2:3). This sounds harsh, but we must understand that our goodness is never good enough before God. Our sins keep us separated from God, His promises, and without hope in the world (Eph 2:12). God, not wanting us to stay in our sinful condition, provided a way for us to find forgiveness of our sins. Because of His great love for us, He sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins (Hebrews 2:17).
How are we forgiven by God? Through the blood of Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7-8a).
Paul describes this forgiveness as canceling the certificate of debt (our sins) against us, taken out of the way by Jesus being nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14)
Why are we forgiven? We are forgiven that we may be cleansed from our sinfulness (1 John 1:9) and to have a renewed relationship with God…being brought near and having peace with Him (Ephesians 2:12-14).
- When we forgive others it honors the One who forgave us
We need to realize that forgiveness is choice we make, not just because we have been told to forgive, but out of our appreciation of the tremendous mercy and grace of God’s forgiveness for our own sins. If God was able to forgive us, the forgiveness of another is a small thing for Him to ask of us.
How are we to forgive? We are to forgive as often as we are sinned against, even to 70 x 7 times (Matt 18:21-22). We are to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentileness and patience that is seen as we forgive the complaints we have against others (Colossians 3:12, 13). We give grace because we have been given grace (Ephesians 1:7-8).
- Our failing to forgive has eternal consequences
When we do not forgive, but instead hold on to anger, bitterness and resentfulness, we sin, making barrier between God and ourselves. He cannot forgive us when we refuse to forgive others (Matthew 6:14, 15; 18:35). Not only must we forgive others, we must ask for forgiveness of others. God is aware of our sinfulness and our need to ask for forgiveness, we need to be reconciled with others before we can come to God (Matthew 5:23-24).
Forgiveness is a choice…We all make choices that hurt our relationships. Asking and receiving forgiveness is the key to keeping relationships alive or having them explode into anger and pain.
If love can be described as the flame that keeps a relationship strong, then forgiveness is a fan that strokes the flame. Unforgiveness would be a bucket of ice water that extinguishes the flame.