We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (ESV)
Wow. This verse stopped me cold. What a simple yet profound statement. I don’t love because I’m good. I don’t love because I’m superior. I don’t even love because I’m – me! I love because HE LOVED. He forgave me everything, and He forgave even before I sinned. He loved me unconditionally before I was born. He voluntarily went to the cross to die for me to forgive me for sins I had not yet committed. And He gave me a free gift of salvation – eternal life through Him – if I would just accept it. He gave me a way out of eternal damnation. He is preparing a place for me in heaven.
And I can’t forgive YOU for saying something that offends me? Aaaaaggggghhhhhh. Seven words in a sentence convinces me that I need to forgive unconditionally and always.
But, like Simon, I’m sometimes consumed with outward appearances. I have a good life. I have relationships – good and bad – that people observe. If I humble myself and forgive him, I might seem weak. I am afraid of losing face – and so I hold on to bitterness and anger and rage because I don’t want people to think badly of me. I think that in many cases, we do choose to hold out the branch of bitterness for these terrible reasons. I really need to work through this – and I’m amazed that God’s living Word can show me so much in one little sentence (one that I’ve read many times).
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 4:31-5:2 (ESV)
How does holding on to my hurts look? I’m a bitter, angry gossip.
And how will forgiveness look? I’ll be kind, tenderhearted, loving, and an imitator of God.
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Cor 2:5-11 (ESV)
Paul had been hurt by someone in the Corinthian church. He chose to show compassion to his paingiver – and left us with admonishment about forgiveness and comfort. Check out verse 7 and 8. Why did Paul want the church to forgive their wayward member? And what were they to do once they had forgiven? Can you do that to the one who has hurt you?
We can choose to forgive – or not. Paul gives us the effects of both. What will happen to us if we refuse to forgive (verse 11)?
Is love a feeling or an action? Or is it both? How did Jesus manifest His love for us? By dying on the cross for forgiveness. We are to be imitators of Christ, so we should show His unconditional love.
If I tell you that I’ve forgiven you – but I also say that I want nothing to do with you – have I truly forgiven you?
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21 (ESV)
Forgiveness and love go hand in hand. If we love God, we are to forgive and love others. If we harbor “I want nothing to do with you” toward a friend, co-worker, or relative, we have not yet truly forgiven them. I need to seek God to see where I have been only partially forgiving, and I need to ask Him to help me be a truly forgiving person.
How about you? Are you in need of total forgiveness from someone, or do you need to show total forgiveness to someone? I’m going to try to set things right with God and man, one step at a time. I will pray for you as you seek to do the same.
See you Monday.