Colossians 3:13, 24, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”
The story of forgiveness in the Bible is found from Genesis to Revelation. Forgiveness is a foundational truth that permeates the Bible for our benefit. No matter how wonderful we are or how well we live, we need forgiveness – not just one time, but throughout our lives. A definition for forgiveness could be giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life. The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored.
It was a dramatic story of forgiveness. In December of 2000, on the Battleship Missouri Memorial, a dozen American survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor embraced three of the Japanese pilots who had flown attacking planes. The reconciliation ceremony had been arranged by the American-Japan Friendship Committee. While writing this devotional I was reminded of the stories of forgiveness recorded for us in God’s Eternal Word. An example in the book of Genesis we see the forgiveness of Joseph towards his brothers. Joseph’s brothers had planned to kill him, but changed their mind and instead sold him into slavery. Now they are standing before him in Egypt asking for food. Joseph is faced with a great test; and is in a position of power where he could take revenge on them, if he so desired; however, because he trusted God’s sovereignty, he now offered them forgiveness from what they did to him.
Toyohiko Kagawa, was a remarkable person. He was a teacher, poet, philosopher, scientist, an evangelist and the author of 150 books. He wrote on various subjects ranging from scientific studies to theological issues. He was imprisoned during World War II for his pacifistic views; however, he never ceased to love and serve God. Often he repeated these three prayers, “Father, forgive.” “God, let me live to serve.” “O God, make me like Christ.” Those brief petitions reveal the spiritual dynamics of a truly Christian lifestyle. That third prayer cannot be realized unless we take seriously the other two. Jesus said that He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). And having taught His disciples to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22), He became the supreme example of His own teaching when on the cross He prayed for His executioners, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
In a world where retaliation is so common, believers are called to be different. We are to pray for our persecutors, forgive them, and minister to them (Matthew 5:44). Thus, Jesus’ principles for His followers are challenging, but with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us we can choose to have a spirit of forgiveness. My friend and brethren, only to the extent that we serve and forgive can we become like Jesus Christ. And that will require God’s enabling grace. How He longs to hear us pray, “Father, forgive,” “God, let me live to serve,” and “O God, make me like Christ.” These are essential to a Christian lifestyle.
(1) Is there a relative, friend, or maybe a believer in Christ with whom you need to make things right?
(2) If so, then why not go straight to that person and do it today?
A Christian lifestyle is Christ living His life through you.