Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ephesians 4:32

"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

Do you easily forgive others when you have been wronged? When we are oriented to the thinking of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture it is easy to recognize the special place that forgiveness should hold in our thoughts. God the Father was so oriented to forgiveness that He sent His Son to the cross to bear the burden for our sins so that He could justifiably forgive us. Christ had to pay the penalty that we could not pay ourselves in order for the righteousness of God to be satisfied. Consider how infinitely greater His righteousness is than our own when you have been wronged and have an opportunity to forgive the person who has wronged you. If God has forgiven, who are we to withhold our forgiveness? The Greek word "forgiving" in this passage in Ephesians occurs in the present tense which means continuous action. Paul's communication of the continuous action of forgiveness has a two-fold meaning. First,we are not just to forgive a wrong that has been done to us in a moment in time but we are to persist in that forgiveness, never rescinding it even for a moment. Second, we are to be continuously oriented to forgiveness throughout the day.

Reflect on the parable of the prodigal son recorded in Luke 15:11-32. Jesus tells about a man who had two sons the younger of whom requested his inheritance from his father so he could travel to a distant country and spend the money as he desired. After suffering the consequences of his bad decisions he desired to return to his father but agonized over the response that he would receive so much that he was prepared to consider himself no longer a son but a hired hand. When he returned he was welcomed by his father with a loving heart and a great feast. The father's offer of forgiveness removed the burden that his son was carrying, enabling him to focus on gratitude rather than guilt. God wants our focus to be on thanksgiving for what He has done for us rather than guilt for what we have done by sinning. We are to imitate this by forgiving others and removing the burden of guilt from their midst.

Rejoice when an opportunity to forgive another person presents itself in your life. Don't wait for the person who has wronged you to ask for your forgiveness, re-engage with that person so as to make it clear that they have already been forgiven not because they asked but because you offered. Why is this important? Because this is a picture of the cross and a wonderful introduction the the Gospel. We did not ask for forgiveness in order to receive salvation, we simply acknowledged that we had already been forgiven because of the work of Christ on the cross. By removing the burden on the part of the offender you have communicated by example what God has already done for that person. This opens the door for you to explain the real reason why you have offered your forgiveness- because God has already forgiven that person based on the work of Christ on the cross. Elevate the need of others to receive the Gospel above your own need to be offered an apology. God does not require an apology, simply an acknowledgment that He has forgiven us because of the work of Christ on the cross. We draw nearer to God when we establish this same standard for the forgiveness of others.

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