Thursday, May 23, 2019
It’s much easier to speak in generalities than it is in specifics. This is also true when we are being spoken to. When we listen to a sermon by a pastor or sit in a class hearing from a teacher, we would much rather have them talk in broad applications than feel like they are pointing their fingers at details. There is a self-protectionist mechanism in our human nature that keeps us from feeling blame and shame. When we hear generalities, we can feel pretty good about ourselves in general. None of us enjoys the pain of looking at specific shortcomings.
But what if we applied the same principle to our health needs? What if doctors only spoke in generalities and never gave us the specifics? How many times would you return to the doctor that said, “Overall you’re doing pretty well”? No, we want specifics. We ask for details. “What’s wrong, and how can we fix it?” “How long will it take to get better?” “How long do I have?”
In Colossians 3:12 that we studied yesterday, we are given the generalities of our Christian existence. Those 5 qualities of Christ-likeness that we are to put on as the clothing of our spiritual lives are pretty broad in their application and may have left you feeling pretty good about your condition. Today we get much more specific. Get ready – this may hurt.
Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
We are given two specific applications of Christ-like behavior in verse 13 – bear with each other and forgive each other. Now at first reading this doesn’t seem to dig too deeply. But maybe there’s some hard ground down deeper that needs to be loosened up. Our hearts may have become hardened against the real truth of what is being said here. For example, we choose to put up with some people in our lives and exclude others. We bear with the inconsistencies of some but not all. We overlook the personality quirks of some but not others. We have decided to forgive some but not others, and that a little forgiveness for some covers a lot of unforgiveness for others. We classify people into categories of those that are worthy of forgiveness and those that are not. We have not fully put on the clothing of Christ.
The word bear in this verse has a twofold meaning: first, to hold up, as if to lift up another person who has fallen; and second, to hold oneself up and endure, no matter how many times the other person falls and needs to be held up. This is how we treat others in real community. We lift up others, and we keep lifting them up no matter how many times they fall.
The second characteristic is even harder – forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. The word grievances is a Greek word meaning to have a complaint against someone whom you blame for a wrong. It’s not hard to come up with a list of people who have wronged us. Unfortunately, the list of those people we have chosen not to forgive is almost as long. Notice, however, that the responsibility to forgive is on the victim. Yes, if I know that I have wronged someone I am also responsible to go to them and seek forgiveness, but we all know that most of the time the people against whom we have complaints are not aware they have offended us. In all cases of wrong and grievance, we are to initiate all acts of forgiveness.
The word forgive is interesting, because according to Thayer’s Dictionary of Greek Words it means:
- to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
- to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
- to grant forgiveness, to pardon
- to give graciously, give freely, bestow
- graciously to restore one to another
Now that is convicting. To forgive someone means to do something pleasant to them. Forgiveness is an action. We cannot claim to have forgiven someone if we have not restored a giving relationship with them. We are to be humbly giving them compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience – all the general qualities we talked about yesterday. And we are to be treating everyone who has ever wronged us with this kind of love, just as the Lord does to us!
What a challenge it is to realize that we are held accountable to the same standard of forgiveness that Jesus modeled. Can we do it? YES! By the power of the seed, God’s DNA in us, we can. Let’s start doing it.