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”
Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”
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.
While writing this devotional I was reminded of some of the stories of forgiveness woven and recorded for us in God’s Eternal Word. Matthew 18:21-22;, “Jesus taught Peter to forgive seventy-seven times”; Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery found in John 8:1-11; and in Acts 7:58-60, “Stephen cried out to the Lord for those who stoned him before his death”. In the book of Genesis we see the forgiveness of Joseph towards his brothers. His 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.
King David forgave Saul who wanted to kill him is found in 1 Samuel 24:1-15 “…This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion…”Another example not found in the Scriptures is that of Toyohiko Kagawa 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. He wants us never to forget the importance of forgiving those who have mistreated or offended us in some way. How difficult it is to affirm Christ’s teaching about forgiveness, let alone putting it into practice. Yet, in some cases it seems impossible to forgive once, let alone seventy times seven, as Jesus required. Yet, forgiveness was at the very center of Christ’s teaching. It was his principal concern at the very hour of his death. As he hung there bleeding on the cross, with pain as great or greater than any of us will ever experience, “He said so directly of those who delighted in his own death: Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”
In a world where retaliation is so common place (especially in the times we are now living), believers are called to be different and we should be if you know Christ as Savior. 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 within us we can choose to have a spirit of forgiveness. My 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) How are you doing in the area of forgiveness?
(2) Is there a relative, friend, or maybe a believer in Christ with whom you need to make things, right?
(3) If so, why not go straight to that person and do it today?
A Christian lifestyle is Christ living His life through you.