Forgiveness in a climate of retaliation
To err is human; to forgive is divine. Our society is bent on retribution and revenge. "I don’t get mad, I get even" seems to illustrate the prevailing consensus in the world, while the qualities of grace and forgiveness appears to be the exception rather than the rule. For whatever reason, people are more apt to judge than to extend the hand of forgiveness.
I am not for a moment denying the element of consequence in the equation of choice. Nor am I propagating a lifestyle of licentiousness. It is universally accepted that there are numerous repercussions for every decision made. Some are positive; others are not.
The revenge motif may be all too common and acceptable in our world, but that model does not apply in the Kingdom of God. In other words, we are to live by different standards. As Jesus declared, “we are in the world” but “not of the world.” That is, we live in the world, deeply embedded within it, but we do not live according to the way the world is presently arranged.
As those who have been called out of darkness into the kingdom of light, we have been commissioned to live according to the teachings of Jesus. The Bible reveals the plan of salvation and the pattern for salvation. In simple terms, we are to live like Jesus.
Faith is much more than blind adherence to a doctrinal code. True, Christian faith is founded on Jesus' commandment to “do as I do.” A relevant faith is both seen and heard. Integrity demands that our speech and conduct be congruent. Jesus demands no more and no less.
Freely receive, freely give
Included in this divine commissioning is a call to exhibit grace and forgiveness. We are summoned to be recipients of God’s grace, and to share that grace with others. This includes those of “like precious faith,” as well as those who have yet to believe.
The Church has also been given the “ministry of reconciliation.” We are to make every effort to consciously witness to the unsurpassing love of God in Christ to the world. Bestowing grace and forgiveness to others will reveal the love of God to each person, which will in turn help to further the redemptive mission of Christ.
On numerous occasions the bible addresses the subject of grace and forgiveness. Of particular significance is a passage from 1 Peter.
In light of the fact that “the end of all things is near,” Peter allocates several clear exhortations to those of the faith.
He writes, “above all, love each other deeply.” Here, Peter is stating that love must lie at the center of the church's witness, both locally and around the world. We are to love others deeply or fervently. This speaks of eagerness and intensity. In fact, love is the badge of a believer in the world. Our standard for this love is Jesus Himself.
But why is it important that Christians evidence this kind of love? “Because love covers a multitude of sins.” The Living Bible says it this way, “Love makes up for many of your faults.”
This simply means that Christian love is forgiving. It is a love that forgives again and again. This type of love is not blind, but sees and accepts the faults of others. Forgiveness is not optional equipment in the Christian life. As God in Christ has forgiven us, so we are to reciprocate that action and forgive others – even those who have hurt and used us.
When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we will be free to grow in our relationship with each other. We must allow the love of God to be “shed abroad in our hearts” by the Holy Spirit, and then allow that love to compel us to initiate the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.
By all means, forgive
Are we usually quick to ask forgiveness and to extend it?
Why is it often difficult to be quick to forgive those who fail us?
Is there anyone who has hurt us in any way, to whom we still have not extended the hand of forgiveness?
Though it costs much to forgive the costs will never outweigh the dividends of a restored relationship. So by all means forgive…
References: John 17:11, 16 (NASB); 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:7-8 (NIV); see Proverbs 10:12; see John 13:34-35; Romans 5:5.
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