Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about the importance of following Jesus. I initially planned for this to be a three-week series, but then the following verse caught my eye, mind, and heart this week. It reminded me that perhaps the area of our lives where we most struggle to follow Jesus is in forgiving others.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2.
In my ministry career I’m not sure I’ve seen a teaching of Jesus that people would like to use a bottle of white-out on more than the command to forgive others. Virtually everyone I meet (myself unfortunately included) is quite sure they have found a boatload of exceptions to the command to forgive others. We all have those situations and people we are sure we wronged us in an unforgivable way. Yet, Scripture is REALLY clear that we are to offer forgiveness to others, even if we need to do it 7×70 times. Here are two big reasons for us to continually extend forgiveness and grace to others, even when it is INCREDIBLY hard to do so.
- Because a life of grace is better than a life without forgiveness. Paul uses some powerful words in today’s scripture, words like bitterness, wrath, and anger. Be honest: do you really want those things in your life? While almost all of us answer no, we choose to let all of those things fester in our lives because we choose to not forgive others. Let me share a dirty little secret I’ve learned over the years: those who don’t forgive often suffer more than those who committed the sin. The sinner moves on with their life, while we let bitterness, wrath, and anger eat away at us. When we show grace to others we release all that bitterness, wrath, and anger from our lives.
- Because we follow the example of Jesus. Did you know there has only ever been one person truly capable of judging the sins of the world? That person was Jesus, who because He was the sinless Son of God had the right to judge all people. So how did he use that power? He chose to offer forgiveness. Jesus had all the power in the world, and he chose to forgive each of us infinitely. That’s the example that has been set for us to follow. How can we honestly accept Jesus’ infinite forgiveness of our sins, while simultaneously holding the sins of others over their heads? We need to follow Christ’s example, showing love, grace, and forgiveness, even when it’s difficult.