Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4.32
Forgiveness is the willingness to relinquish the pursuit of justice in response to who’s wrong you. A willingness to free them of the debt that they owe you. Our motivation to do this is because God forgave us. Because of the shed blood of Jesus, God’s justice was satisfied and He has forgiven us of the debt that we owed to Him.
Even with this great motivation, forgiveness is still one of the most challenging character traits to walk out. What makes it so difficult is our inability to forget the offense. I wish that when I forgave someone the memory of that offense could be wiped from my mind but that is just not the case. When this happens, I often want to seek justice for things that have already been forgiven and shed the blood of war in peacetime as David said to Solomon in I Kings 2:5.
David’s army commander, Joab, lost a brother in war at the hands of the enemy. After the war was over and the peace treaty was signed, Joab went and killed the man who had killed his brother. He sought justice for a wartime offense after peace had been established.
Unfortunately, I can do the exact same thing. Now, it might not be that I go and murder someone but often times I have extended forgiveness to someone, they have responded appropriately and we are fully reconciled. Then, one day, week, decade later the memory comes back and I seek justice, again. I want another, “I’m sorry.” I am seeking forgiveness in peacetime for something that was already covered.
When the memory comes back, instead of going to the forgiven offender, I need to go to God and ask for Him to heal me in that area and to walk out the forgiveness that was freely given to me.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13
Forgiveness is one of the hardest acts God calls us to do. As the wickedness in the world increases, the level of offenses increases as well thus making forgiveness even harder. To truly walk in forgiveness for these offenses takes much prayer, ministering and even counsel to move beyond the offense.
Many times I focus more on the 2nd half of this verse, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” and the overwhelmingness of that concept almost paralyzes me. “How can I forgive that offense?” “It hurts so much” “They will just do it again” “It will not change anything” are some of the mantras I start rehearsing in my mind and I often do nothing to move past the offense.
However, if instead of focusing on the second half of the verse, I focus on bearing with others, walking in forgiveness becomes easier. Not because in any way it lessens the offense but because it causes my heart to begin to softer towards others and to the things of God. (Please note that this bearing with others may or may not apply to the offender.)
I like to think of bearing with others in the terms of extending grace to them. Yes, they just did something that could cause me to be offended but I am going to think the best of them and just extend grace. Yes, what just happened grieved me but I am not going to seek justice in this matter but release them of the debt I believe they owe me and trust God to deal with them. Christ Jesus on the day He was crucified bore the burdens of our sins and our offenses on His physical body. Through His Spirit, we can bear with those around us and move toward forgiveness and beyond the offense.
When you are offended, are you quick to seek justice for that offense or are you quick to bear with them and extend grace? Through out the day today bear with others and intentionally extend grace to all who are around you.