This word forgiveness cuts both ways. First, God wants us to be forgiven. He wants us to accept the work of Christ on the cross and believe in his resurrection. He wants us to have eternal life and walk in His forgiveness, redeemed by the blood of Christ. Second, He wants us to be forgiving towards others since we have received His forgiveness. You have to have step one first. Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” 1 John 1:9 tells us what to do to receive this forgiveness “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The Word tells us that God is forgiving and we can rely upon Him to keep His Word and forgive us when we ask. Daniel 9:9 “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving even though we have rebelled against Him.” Psalm 86:5 “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call upon you.”
Once we have received His forgiveness we are indwelt by His Holy Spirit and are continually in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus as we grow in Him. Part of growing requires us to adopt His attitude of forgiveness. Scripture is filled with admonitions for us to have the attitude of forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness is an attitude that results from gratefulness for all that God has done though Christ in forgiving or sin. Here are a few:
- “Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
- “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.” Matthew 6:14-15
- “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
- “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
If we consider the magnitude and filth of our sin that God forgave us through the sacrifice of His only Son, it is expected that we forgive others and treat them with similar compassion. Jesus told the parable of the Unmerciful Servant when asked how many times should one forgive? Read Matthew 18:21-35. A servant begs his master to forgive his debt and yet he goes out and demands payback from one who owes him. He treats the one who owes him without mercy. When the master finds out he throws him in prison. Jesus’ point was that we are forgiven and are expected to treat others with forgiveness in our hearts.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. We need to remember wrongs done so that we will not put ourselves in those situations again. But we need to let go of heartache and bitterness so that we can heal. Our forgiving is essential and commanded as a follower of Christ but it is not dependent upon the other person accepting! We cannot make someone else accept our forgiveness but God requires us to forgive. There is freedom in forgiveness and God wants us to be free in Christ.
Blessings as you strive to be more like Jesus with forgiveness in our heart towards others.