I encourage you to prioritise forgiveness.
Once we prioritise forgiveness, the goals become God’s glorification, then reconciliation – not the other way round. As God’s character and reputation is at the heart of this whole matter, we obviously do not want to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Instead, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).
Sadly, there will be those at odds with us who won’t be interested in confession of sin, forgiveness, or reconciliation. They simply don’t seem to care, choosing to prioritise self before all else. However, God’s grace still rests upon us to do the thing that exemplifies the Lord’s character best – forgive!
You see, even the world can forgive, but it’s motivation is self-desire in order to get relief from the emotional pain. Not so with Christian forgiveness. Christ-like forgiveness is motivated by a desire to embody God’s character, enabling Him to get acknowledged as the source. Remember, forgiveness grows out of love! Love for the Lord first, then love for others second. Self has little to do with this.
Jesus informed His disciples; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Loving others is not new; however, loving others with Christ-like love is. At the most basic level, this speaks of selfless love, ‘agape’ love, which looks to receive no gratification, no vindication, and no personal justice, but is content simply to forgive.
Obviously, the expression of love is essential for the believer, meaning, it needs to be expressed regardless of the outcome. Therefore, the recipient’s acceptance or rejection of our forgiveness is not factored into the equation for forgiveness.
With love as the motivating priority; “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15). Listed here are the accumulative relational implications; peace, holiness, grace, bitterness, trouble, and defilement. These are all issues to be considered when selfless forgiveness is NOT practiced. You see, forgiveness is NOT about us, it’s about the Lord’s renown, and about setting the other person free from your resentment.
A Dose of Reality
The application of Christ-like and loving forgiveness doesn’t always look pretty or feel exciting; particularly when the other party doesn’t admit to fault, and prevents reconciliation. Never-the-less, the child of God forgives! Why, because forgiveness is primarily for God’s glory, His pleasure, His exultation before the angels (Eph 3:10), and the good testimony of His Gospel and His church. Whereas, unforgiveness is all about us; our rights and entitlement, our dignity, our sense of justice, our vindication, and our satisfaction – and do we ever pay a high price for hanging onto unforgiven offenses.
Only prioritised forgiveness will enable you to genuinely “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a). “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The fact is, following Christ demands self-denial and cross carrying. Both are extremely painful and necessary for forgiveness to be a reality. Only then is Christ honouring reconciliation possible, in His timing and in the circumstances that He orchestrates.
Today, I encourage you to prioritise forgiveness for the sake of God’s glory!
Continuing next week with more application…
Together for Christ: Lincoln Forlong www.bbf.net.nz