I have been bombarding you for two weeks about forgiveness, and with this one I will stop. I plan to resume my “regular” every other week or so “schedule” (around Thanksgiving). As you may recall, this current barrage was begun by a disturbing dream and has focused primarily on the reality of our full and complete forgiveness in Christ. In this, as in all of life, it matters what we believe! God brought this home to me about 20 years ago as we were teaching through the book of Ephesians and came to chapter 4, verse 32:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
In this particular passage, as in a similar instruction in Colossians, the word translated “forgiven” is not the Greek word most commonly translated “forgiven.” It is the word more commonly translated “grace” (but it is in a form hard to translate into English [we don’t often say “gracing”]). Yet, it was this verse that God used to transform my understanding of “grace” as a way of life, not just a way to life (and it is the origin of our “tagline”—. . . gracing one another as God in Christ has graced you). In addition to the tie to forgiveness in this verse, you may also see a connection to my e-mail of over a month ago—because this verse, like so many others, includes a “just as” statement. Just as . . .. Our beliefs about how God forgives, when God forgives, who He forgives, what conditions (if any) He places on His forgiveness are crucial to “living out” this instruction. Just as . . ..
In this “concluding” (at least for now) post on forgiveness, I want to focus on the instruction (command) in Ephesians 4:32: Forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you. You see, as with much of our life in Christ, all the great benefits we receive from Papa are not given so we will hoard them! We should enjoy them fully, for sure. But as we enjoy His benefits, He wants us to share those benefits with others. As to forgiveness: You have been forgiven of God through Christ because Jesus bled and died to pay-in-full all the penalty for your sin. I have been encouraging you to recognize and revel in His provision: Live forgiven! In Ephesians we are told that to live forgiven results not only in gratitude, but should also manifest itself in our forgiveness of others just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
It was about 10 years ago that a dear brother, Steve Diehl (www.forgivenessministries.com), shared with a group of us about a study he was doing on forgiveness. Of particular note was the considerable focus on the “physical and psychological benefits” of forgiveness relied upon by Christian authors in explaining why we should forgive. It may be undeniable that such benefits flow from forgiveness, but to make those the basis for forgiveness by believers makes forgiveness primarily about me, something which promotes my well-being—forgiveness of others becomes a “self-centered” act! My own reading on the subject confirms the prevalence of this focus (I just saw another article to that effect the other day). What Steve then shared is a further development of a concept I opened to you a few days back—involving the value we give to the blood of Jesus. If you recall, I told you that your efforts to “make up for” your confessed sins revealed an attitude like, “Jesus, Your blood may have satisfied the Father, but it’s not good enough for me!” Steve pointed out that when we fail to forgive others, we are saying the same thing! If Jesus died to “take away sin” and if His sacrifice truly “took away wrath and brought blessing” (not only on our behalf, but on behalf of the whole world [I John 2:2]), how arrogant of us to not give full weight to the effectiveness of His sacrifice in how we relate to those who sin against us! (Prayerfully reconsider Matthew 18:21-35). Again, in the context of interpersonal relationships, our un-forgiveness of others shouts: “God, the blood of Jesus may have satisfied You, but it’s not good enough for me!”
Forgive . . . just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
“You don’t know what they did to me!” You are right, I don’t. But Jesus knows: He died to pay-in-full the debt their wrong incurred. Is His “currency” good at your bank? “That’s not fair!” God’s forgiveness of you isn’t “fair” either—but it is right, because your debt has been paid in full. “But they aren’t even sorry for what they did!” (“I want them to grovel!”) He didn’t say “trust” them, He says forgive them—for God was in Christ [asking forgiveness on behalf of those pounding the nails, even as the hammer stuck], completely changing the way the world relates to Him, not counting their “in your face” attitude against them (II Corinthians 5:19).
Forgive . . . just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
“What you’re asking is impossible!” Good call, . . . if you were merely human! But, you are not merely human—you are no longer in Adam, you are in Christ. You are a dearly beloved, blood bought & fully forgiven, child of the King. But it is still beyond your ability. And, uh . . . I’m not the one asking . . .
Our Risen Redeemer is calling us to live in a way which can only be accomplished through absolute dependence upon His indwelling Spirit—like sailboats depend upon the wind. . . . He never asks us to live any other way. . . . Why would you want to?
Live forgiven. Pass it on!