Forgiveness is a beautiful, radical reflection of the great forgiver.
BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER, FORGIVING EACH OTHER, JUST AS IN CHRIST GOD FORGAVE YOU. -EPHESIANS 4:32
Last time we talked about what forgiveness isn’t; it isn’t easy, cheap, instantaneous, earned, weakness… and the like. Do you remember where we left off though? Forgiveness isn’t optional. That wasn’t meant to be a mic-drop moment, actually it felt more like a pin-drop moment. “Like, what??? I have to forgive. I don’t know if I can get on board with that.” I hear you. And I want to be gentle but firm on this one—for the Christian, forgiveness isn’t optional. It’s a command. But, not without blessing and beauty. It’s for your good, for healing, and most importantly for the reputation of God himself. Forgiveness is central to our faith. So, let’s tackle what forgiveness is, why we must forgive, and what it says about our God.
Forgiveness is divine.
There’s no other way for me to put this. We humans find forgiveness completely unnatural. To willingly let go of anger and resentment for someone who’s hurt us, we just struggle to get there. My own experience as a human who’s been hurt by other humans is that I simply don’t want to do that. I want nothing more than to hold on to that anger and let it become full-on bitterness. That’ll show ‘em! But God wants something better for me. I’ll never forget how he hounded me about my anger and resentment towards one particular person that I refused to forgive. He’d hurt me so deeply and so continuously; I could never truly forgive him. I could act cordial. I could keep up appearances, yet deep down in my soul, I hated him. But, God. He would have none of that. God loved me too much to let me waller in my miserable state of clouded joy and bitter preoccupations. So, he convicted my heart with Luke 6:28, which says, “Pray for those who mistreat you.” I was like, “Really, God? I don’t even pray enough for the people I like.” But, the Spirit was persistent, pressing in on me with conviction. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I started reluctantly praying for this person. I can’t say I was holy in my intentions, but I was at least obedient. And do you know what? Eventually, God changed my heart. The bitterness and anger melted into compassion and even kindness (like our verse tells us we should have). For me, in that instance, it was supernatural. Only the Spirit of God could change my hard embittered heart. Forgiveness is indeed divine.
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Forgiveness is motivated by forgiveness.
We forgive because we’ve been forgiven. Our verse says we should forgive “just as in Christ God has forgiven you.” This is our motivation: The forgiveness of Jesus himself. So let’s go there, let’s talk about what the forgiveness of Jesus looks like. It is not cheap or shallow, but costly and deep. Jesus paid the price of our forgiveness with his own shed blood. It alone can cover our offenses. And let me tell you, I know my offenses best of all; they’re ugly, shameful, and pernicious. Yet, Jesus has forgiven me fully—for my every wrong, past, present, and future. Annnnd, I am forgiven freely—without any merit or works on my part to cover the cost. So, if Jesus paid it all, paid in full, paid freely, paid with his own blood, who am I to hold a grudge? How can I “make someone pay”? As a forgiven sinner, I simply cannot hold the sins of others against them. My God has not held mine against me.
Forgiveness is work.
Don’t hear me preaching ease of application here. Like just because we’ve been forgiven, all of this should come naturally for us. Oh no. Just go back and read my previous post for a primer on what forgiveness isn’t—i.e., it’s not easy. While forgiveness IS a work of God and it IS motivated by his forgiveness, it’s still anything but easy. It takes courage to start the process. It takes vulnerability to unearth our hurts. It takes humility to admit our anger and resentment. It takes time to heal. It takes some serious perseverance to weed out bitterness when it crops back up. It takes strength to have hard conversations. I’m sure there are many other things I’m not even thinking of that should go in this list. But, there is one foundational thing that supports all the rest, without which forgiveness is insurmountable. Forgiveness takes the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God himself who gives us the courage, vulnerability, humility, perseverance, and strength to do what it takes to forgive those who’ve wounded us. Forgiveness is work, but it’s a work that we don’t do alone, God himself bears the burden with us.
Forgiveness is beautiful.
If you’ve read Les Miserables or seen the movie, there’s this beautiful moment that gets me every time. A convicted thief, Jean Valjean, is taken in by a poor bishop for the night. In the early morning, Jean steals away along with all the silverware. He’s promptly caught by the authorities and returned to the Bishop for identification. But in a twist, instead of pressing charges (and condemning Jean forever), the Bishop thanks the officers for returning Jean to him, because he forgot to take the candlesticks too. He then tells Jean, “...my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you… I give it to God.” This is it! This is the radical beauty of forgiveness. This is the freedom of restoration! This is the picture of what God has done for us. He has forgiven us and purchased our souls for good. When we do the same for others, we are a stunning reflection of our Lord. Forgiveness that is free and full is jaw-dropping, mystifying, and captivating. Who can resist such beauty?
Forgiveness is purposeful.
We are forgiven forgivers. This is who we are. And when we forgive others, we’re living in our purpose—participating in the divine work of God. Forgiven forgivers are radical, winsome reflections of the ultimate Forgiver.
What are some beautiful, radical examples of forgiveness that you’ve witnessed or experienced?
What holds you back from forgiving others?
Is there someone you struggle to forgive that the Spirit is convicting you to pray for?
Thanks for reading,
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Hi there, I'm Natalie! I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you to hear more about what God is doing in your life!
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