Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
The message of forgiveness is at the forefront of building strong relationships. I suppose we always need a reminder to be patient and to bear with one another in the midst of differences, grievances, and disagreements. Christ Jesus bore our sins upon Himself and took the chastisement and punishment for them … yes, even dying in our place to pay the sin debt we owed. This is the context and the example of “Forgive as the Lord forgave you!” It was complete and full forgiveness; far beyond what the human mind can grasp at times.
Romans 5:6-8 (NKJV)
6 For when we were still without strength, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is a “right time” for us to forgive each other. There is a “right time” for us to forgive those who wronged us in the past. There is a “right time” for us to extricate a root of bitterness towards another person and release them from the debt they might owe us. The “right time” is now … today! I assure you, there is no debt owed to us that is greater than the debt we owed to God for our own rebellion and sin. If God chose to release (forgive) us, then we ought to choose forgiveness and release those who have sinned against us. It is the most spiritually healthy thing you will ever do for yourself – forgiving others as God through Christ forgave you.
While I am thinking about it, I would like to comment on the nature of forgiveness because many of us have been “victims” of mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse at the hands of others. We need to always understand that forgiveness does not excuse or condone what happened to us … the pain, the suffering, the distress, or the despair that it might have caused. It does not meet that we “tolerate” the abuses or excuse or exonerate the person(s) who wronged us. What is does mean is that we make a conscious, deliberate decision to “release” feelings of resentment or vengeance toward the person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. We would do well to remember Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; 1 Samuel 24:12; Proverbs 20:22; Hebrews 10:30)
When you forgive another, you do not necessarily overlook or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the brokenness you have experienced. And though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it does not obligate you to make amends with the person who harmed you, or to release them from legal accountability if implicated. What forgiveness can do is bring you peace of mind and free you from corrosive anger. It does not require you to have positive feelings toward the offender, but it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you. Forgiveness will enable you to heal and move on with your life. In that context, forgiveness will afford you “reconciliation” for the well-being of your own life….
Here are a few additional Scripture passages addressing the matter of forgiveness:
Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV) – God is more concern about your relationships than your religious acts
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 6:12 (NKJV) – The Lord’s Prayer
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV) – The measure you give is the measure you receive
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) – Read the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant which follows (Matthew 18:23-35)
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
I think you get the picture here just from what Matthew recorded in his Gospel concerning the teachings that Jesus gave His followers on this issue. And I would like to say, that I believe Jesus urges us to forgive for our own well-being … “for our own sakes”. And that rationale would be consistent with the “motive” for which God forgives. As declared by the Prophet Isaiah: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Cf. Isaiah 43:25) So there is a dynamic to forgiveness and not holding trespasses or sins against one another that appears to afford an underlying personal good associated with the “release” you will experience.
Romans 4:5-8 (NKJV) – The Blessing of Forgiveness
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Cf. Psalm 32:1-2)
So if you need to forgive someone, I pray that you will do so today – for your own sake and well-being. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Cf. Ephesians 4:32) You have been blessed in this regard, and we are called to be a blessing to each other. God set the standard and modeled it for us. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Amen.