Bend it like Jesus
Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to practice. There is nothing in our natural state of being that makes us want to take a debt, some wrong that someone has committed against us, and erase it once and for all. We may feel some sort of kindness in a moment of contrition or repentance by the wrongdoer, but at some point in the future we will at least be tempted to remember that sin or iniquity again.
This happens in every area of human interaction. In the home, between husband and wife, between parent and child, between friend and comrade, and even sometimes between complete strangers. Our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, words and actions communicate a desire for keeping track of all the wrongs done against us. But as believers we are called to a much higher, much more gospel centered lifestyle.
Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
No one knows how much you have been forgiven by other people not even you. Similarly, you may not know how much God has forgiven you, but no one knows nearly as much about that as you do. Only you can know how often and how much you sin as intimately as you know. And we thank God for that for at least two reasons. First, if everyone else knew just how rotten we actually were, we might find ourselves with a few less friends. Secondly, and positively, we can and should embrace the reality of our forgiveness from God. Only we know the magnitude of our “list” and only we can be as grateful to the Lord as we are for being forgiven.
Not only are we called to a life of forgiveness but Paul also makes it clear that we ought to be folks that bear well with one another. When does this happen? Have you ever interacted with someone, probably one close to you, that did something that was so strange, so weird, that you cannot understand why it seemed to them a good idea? But at the same time you are assessing this oddity, you realize that the act committed or the word uttered or the thought expressed, is not sin. It’s not a violation of God’s Word in any way. It is simply different. Perhaps really, really different, according to your estimation, but definitely not sin. Those are the situations in which we are to bear with the other person. And from the opposite perspective, you don’t even know how weird you seem to other people, how much you need forbearance.
Paul calls us to think about the immensity of God’s grace and then apply it in the same way to those who are in our debt as well as to those in need of forbearance. Our right standing in Christ with God should be the motivation for living lives of generous grace. John Piper says it this way: we should “take the forgiveness and justification that we have received vertically through the death of Christ and bend it out horizontally to others.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ creates this possibility. And I would go even further and say that the Gospel initiates the inevitability of forgiveness and forbearance. As new creations, we will have a growing desire to be just like Jesus and will by nature want to extend the grace of forgiveness to those around us, even when they wrong us in the most difficult ways. And when the situation in question is not sinful, just super awkward, we extend forbearance. Jesus is our example. We invite you to join with us as we endeavor to create this kind of culture of grace.
Grace & Peace,