This past Sunday, our Youth Pastor Andrew Bosak said that refusing to forgive is a disgrace to the cross. That immediately struck a chord in my spirit because I personally know what bitterness can do to a personâ€™s soul. My angst towards my father for more than twenty years almost ruined me emotionally. When I finally recommitted my life to Christ, surrendering all control to Him, the first thing the Holy Spirit instructed me to do was to forgive my father.
I was overwhelmed by the thought. I thought getting back to Christ and living a sold out life to Him would be incremental. It has been, but Jesus knows my heart and He knew that the biggest stumbling block in my life was my bitterness towards my father. I had to forgive him if I wanted to grow in my walk with Christ. Andrew reminded me of the verse that God showed me to help me along:
â€œAnd be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.â€ (Ephesians 4:32)
From my childhood I remembered the Lordâ€™s Prayer and that I was to forgive those as I have been forgiven. However, putting that into practice was never possible in my own strength. I am by nature a warrior and one who could easily seek revenge. This is why reading my Bible is so vital to my growth as a Christian. For me to be Christlike, I must read what it is like to be like Christ. What I learn when I read about Jesus is that He is not like me, but that I want to be like Him:
â€œTherefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.â€ (Colossians 3:12-13)
Taken on face value, one could almost consider the Apostle Paulâ€™s instruction to the Ephesian church to forgive as an option or suggestion. Not so with his instruction to the Colossian church. Clearly we see a command to forgive, but not on the authority of the Apostle Paul. Paul began his letter to the Colossians as â€œan apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.â€ Paulâ€™s mandate was from the Lord. So we can read in the Bible commands that are authoritative and from God even if given by the hand of man.
A Christian with an unforgiving spirit is like a body with a dislocated joint. You may be able to function, but part of you not only hurts terribly, it also does not work as designed. A Christian who refuses to forgive is out of the will of God to the point that his or her prayer life is no longer effective:
â€œAnd whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.â€ (Luke 11:25-26)
You might be thinking that it is too hard to forgive someone for how they hurt you, and it is. You may think your forgiveness equals approval of the violatorâ€™s actions; it does not. To forgive what we consider unforgiveable takes the grace of Jesus, a grace displayed on the cross:
â€œThen Jesus said, â€˜Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.â€™â€ (Luke 23:34a)
Jesus is teaching us that those who sin against us do not understand the enormity of their sins because they are blinded by it. Our forgiving the unforgiveable is a practical lesson for someone who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Even if the violator does not see it, others in your life will see you displaying grace that only comes from Christ:
â€œIn Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.â€ (Ephesians 1:7)
The most generous gift we can receive as a human is Christâ€™s forgiveness. The most generous gift we can give another human is that same forgiveness.
The alternative is to refuse to forgive, thereby disgracing the cross.
Which will you choose?
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Copyright Â© 2016 David Jeffers