We live in a world where nobody is perfect. We all have different tolerances. We walk through challenging seasons. We have issues and opportunities to be offended, often with those closest to us. But thankfully, with God’s help, we get a second chance at relationships.
What is the most important factor in giving relationships a second chance? Forgiveness. It is not just a Christian virtue, it is a command.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
Jesus challenges us to think about the grace that we’ve received from him and use it as motivation to extend grace to each other.
So, How did God – in Christ – forgive us? By substitution.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
Jesus took our place. We are so precious and valuable to God that he put the penalty of our sin, which is death, on Jesus so that we could live! All we have to do is receive the free gift of his grace and pardon.
When we think about forgiveness we must apply what Jesus did, not only to our own sins, but the sins of others as well.
Now, forgiveness is not condoning sin, or excusing bad behavior. It is not taking the blame ourselves, getting even or feeling sympathy. Forgiveness is not becoming a doormat or putting yourself in a position to be abused again.
Forgiveness is giving up the right to hold on to your hurt. It is erasing the debt and wiping the slate clean. It is possible to extend forgiveness and still keep healthy boundaries in place.
We find one of the most incredible examples of courageous forgiveness in the story of Stephen. (Acts 7:54-60) Saul, later to be called Paul, looked on while an unruly mob stoned Stephen to death. In his suffering, Stephen cried out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He chose forgiveness. St. Augustine points out that there would be no Paul without Stephen. Stephen’s words of forgiveness unlocked the beauty of Paul’s calling and released him to fulfill his destiny as one of the most influential Christ-followers in history.
What calling or person will you release when you choose to forgive?