Christlike Forgiveness

Human hearts have an incredible ability to hold onto unforgiveness, perpetually keeping alive past hurts and offences. As Christians, we’re not exempt from this ugly reality, even though we possess the resources in Christ to overcome unforgiveness. Writing to the Ephesian Church, Paul provides understanding on the practical nature of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:29-32.
Christlike Forgiveness
First, in verse 29, he gives tangible instruction. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Our speech should communicate grace for the purpose of blessing and strengthening others. If we must speak of a person who has hurt us, speak kindly, or at least neutral words, but without lying about them. Or, simply say nothing about them. If you speak of them, or to them, speak words that carry grace and NOT anger seeking personal justice.

Second, in verse 30, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We are to love the indwelling Holy Spirit and show our desire NOT to sadden Him or cause Him to feel wounded by our words or behaviour towards someone else.

Third, verse 31 instructs our hearts, feelings, emotions, and memories. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Here, believers are called to make seriously  difficult choices. We choose to tell ourselves that “bitterness,  wrath, anger, clamour and slander” have no place in our hearts. Therefore, we are to reject ownership of these dangerous and damaging outworking’s.

Paul speaks of clamour, which is an outburst of grief. Now, grief is OK, and speaking about grief is good and honouring to the Lord. But grief should not burst out in loud and angry words which seek to hurt others. Sometimes our hearts try to deceive us into thinking that uncontrollable outbursts are OK, but they’re NOT. Deceived hearts will even say that it’s OK to slander the forgiven person, but it is NOT OK. And remember, only Christ, the God man, was truly capable of righteous anger. Our anger sins. Therefore, “be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Fourth, verse 32 shows us how to behave towards the forgiven person and the motive for such behaviour. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Put simply, we are to forgive our offenders to the same extreme as God has forgiven us (Mat 18:21-22). We instruct ourselves to transfer the forgiveness we received from God onto the person who offends us. We then tell ourselves to be kind rather than angry. We exchange feelings of hard bitterness for tender-heartedness. When painful or harsh memories surface, we tell ourselves that Christ has forgiven us, and we have forgiven our offender. Unforgiveness should have NO place in our hearts.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Whenever our hearts speak words of unforgiveness, we surrender that memory and emotion to the control of God the Holy Spirit and pray for God’s blessing on that forgiven person. We should also pray for the opportunity of reconciliation (1Co 4:13). May we commit to Christ having the victory of forgiveness in us, and to helping others experience the victory of Christ’s forgiveness also.

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