LifeLink Devotions (Click link for audio version)
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Forgiveness is a multi-faceted gem. It is indescribably beautiful and of unappraisable value. It is the single most significant aspect of the grace of God. It sets Christianity apart from all other attempts at faith. It is to be the greatest distinction between followers of Christ and followers of all other religious philosophies. We have been forgiven! We forgive others!
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
But simply saying we forgive and sincerely living forgiveness are unfortunately two separate things for far too many people. We have all been guilty of claiming to forgive someone without following through with a loving plan to restore them to the position they had with us prior to their guilt. Let me share some of the missing facets in our practice of forgiveness:
- Forgiving someone involves the healing of the wound in our heart by the Holy Spirit. How can we say we forgive if our attitude toward the offender has not been healed? We are to forgive as the Lord forgave us, and when He forgave He wiped the slate clean, washed all the sin away, removed it as far as the east is from the west, buried it in the deepest sea, and put up a no fishing sign because He chooses to remember the sin no more. The Holy Spirit will bring the same type of forgiveness to us if we let Him. When we forgive someone, we must choose to remember it no more and act as if it never happened. The Holy Spirit will honor that choice and heal the wound completely. I know that in our flesh our emotions need time to heal and be restored, and trust takes time to be earned. But forgiveness is not of the flesh, it is of the Spirit. I hope I don’t offend you, but I think we use our emotions and the trust issue as a justification for holding a grudge. I think we have really missed the wonder and awe and joy of true forgiveness by not allowing the Holy Spirit to bring the miraculous power of Christ’s forgiveness to our hearts. We somehow feel good about holding the offense over the head of the offender, reminding them of their failure, because we believe it is our responsibility to make sure they change. Oh how we interfere with the work of Holy Spirit. What arrogance we display to believe that we are the instruments of changing another person’s life. I challenge you to read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:23 – 2:11 and see how Paul both forgave and told the church to forgive.
- Forgiveness involves restoration. How severely Jesus was criticized for His practice of forgiveness. Imagine allowing a demonically possessed prostitute to eat with Him and wash his feet with expensive oil. She had not been to any counseling. She had not been given the time to prove that her repentance was real by submitting her life to the public scrutiny of other Christians who outwardly hoped she would succeed but inwardly believed she could not. She was inspected by people who looked for every possible point of failure, ready to announce to the world that she was a fake. Do I sound a little cynical? I am, because I have been the one scrutinized, I have done the scrutinizing, and most likely so have you. But Jesus modeled true forgiveness, because it involved immediate restoration. Yes, Jesus knew the true condition of her heart and we may not, but the Holy Spirit does, and forgiveness is His work, not ours. When we qualify restoration based on human requirements, is it not just an attempt to eliminate the possibility of future pain? Are we not simply seeking the protected road for ourselves? Is there any value to those requirements for the offender? Did Jesus ever require a restoration process, or did He simply restore the person completely at the point of repentance?
There is more to be said but I think we have enough to chew on for today. Forgiveness is an incredible gift we have received and we are empowered to give. Let’s do it according to the love of Christ, not according to the law of the flesh. I am convinced that the world will beat a path to our door and then beat our door down to become a part of a church that truly lives the forgiveness of Jesus.