I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about the qualities of a genuine Christian. There is a whole other discussion with the difference between a nominal church attender and a true follower of Christ, and if we are able to discern that. Besides the fruit of the Spirit, a couple other qualities we came up with were showing love toward others and practicing forgiveness. The concept of forgiveness is not unique to the Christian faith, but it is closely associated with it because of the primary reason why Christ entered this world. Before you became born again, at some point you probably realized the gravity of your sins and need for atonement that only Christ could provide. It is a freeing experience the first time you trust in Him for forgiveness and understand His willingness to forgive each time you repent. It often takes more time to understand that once you have been forgiven, He now expects you to forgive others in your life, regularly, even when they don’t deserve it. How has this been going for you?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Is there anyone in your life that you cannot seem to forgive? We all likely had experiences growing up that left scars on our hearts that led to unforgiveness. Whether it was other kids in school, or your own family members who hurt you with their actions or words that stung, we are not immune to being hurt by selfish people in this broken world. Our initial reaction in these situations may be to retaliate and serve up justice in our own way, or to try to ignore it and hope it goes away. Retaliation does not usually end well, but may seem necessary sometimes to protect ourselves. Trying to stuff down anger and bitterness in our hearts toward someone often does us more harm than them. As someone said, its like me drinking poison and hoping they die. The only true way to be set free from these things is through forgiving them, event though they probably won’t ask for it, or don’t deserve it. It may be a one-time thing, but may likely need to be repeated each time the bitterness returns, or a new offense occurs. Its not something that comes naturally, but it is about the only thing that helps bring healing.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
Maybe it is easier to forgive someone for something they did to you decades ago than to do it on a daily basis for the insults you encounter today. What about when you encounter irritations and frustrations from members of your own family each day? Do you harbor hatred in your heart toward any individual or group of people right now? With all the vitriol and hatred in the news between political parties and other groups, its easy to share your feelings with some choice words when you have strong opinions on a subject or personality you don’t agree with. If you have anger or bitterness toward any of these ideals or people you think may be in these groups, are you still willing to forgive them, or act with kindness or love toward them if they engaged in a conversation with you? If someone is willing to forgive your sin and the offenses you commit on a daily basis, shouldn’t we seek to act in the same way toward others if that’s what we are called to? If you struggle with this, ask God to empower you through his Spirit to speak and act in ways that are honorable to Him and in accord with the name Christian, if that is what you truly are. May you be set free from the chains of hate, anger, and bitterness each time you choose to forgive!
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Yours in Christ,