What Ever Happened to Forgiveness?

For November 21, 2021
When we are offended, our “normal” reaction is to retaliate; this is because our normal thought process tends to go something like, “I can’t let that person ‘disrespect’ me.” However, due to the presence of sin in the world—and in our hearts—we all have ‘disrespected’ (or offended) someone, whether the act was intentional or not, just as Romans 3:10 reminds us, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Disrespect was not on the menu some four-hundred years ago, between the early settlers of the Plymouth Colony and the Native Americans who came together for a harvest celebration feast, which has since become our Thanksgiving Holiday celebration.

People from varying races and cultures can gather when we understand the complexity and depth of God’s love for us, as He chose to reconcile a sin-cursed humanity to Himself. Thus, though His Spirit working in and through us, we can celebrate our diversity by treating each other with the utmost respect, dignity, acceptance, and honor.

The world craves this unifying message of acceptance of others through Christ, which offers us a glimpse of what Heaven will be like with its rich diversity of people united under the lordship of Jesus Christ. John saw our future in this context, while he was on the Isle of Patmos,

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man [or woman] could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. Revelation 7:9–10 (AKJV)

Because we are all precious in the sight of the Lord, we can view each other through His loving eyes. Although love can name our emotional attraction towards someone or something, the Lord established a “new” love when He commanded us to love (Greek: agape) each other unselfishly, just as He loves us.1 His Spirit enables us to express this selfless, pure love consistently, which will confirm we belong to the Lord.

We can express His love as we yield to His Spirit, who instinctively responds to others through us in the ways that serve their best interests. In our strength alone, we are incapable of this altruistic love.

Our human love is inadequate because, with it, we always want to know “What’s in it for us?” before we respond. But God demonstrated His unselfish love in Christ toward us, and now He empowers and mandates us to share it with other people.

The Lord Jesus Christ supplies us with His unquenchable desire to forgive, reconcile, and extend ourselves. This is the “most excellent way” that Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 13 (Love Chapter).

This unselfish love is patient and kind. It is always at work, seeking opportunities to show kindness on our behalf when we are ready to receive. This love is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude (v. 4).

Possessiveness or irritability is never present because the giver is never concerned about what the recipient does or does not do “to deserve it.” Otherwise, it is no longer love, but it becomes a loan instead.

Love does not demand its own way; it is not irritable and keeps no record of wrongs (v. 5). It is not glad about injustice but is glad when the truth wins out (v. 6). Here, we do not rejoice when wicked triumphs. Our concern is for everyone because we know as one suffers, we all suffer.

Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it is ever hopeful, and it endures (v. 7). Of these three, faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love (v 13).

Love is not abstract, but practical, in the sense we do not perform it in secret but extend it in our acceptance, benevolence, and forgiveness toward others. We can forgive and forget offenses because God forgave and forgot ours when His Son sacrificed His life for us at Calvary some two-thousand years ago.

The Lord commands us to express His kindness toward others, especially those who need our forgiveness; this is not easy. Yet, Jesus warns it is required to secure God’s forgiveness for our offenses,

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV)

Jesus’ words imply that we extend forgiveness equally; to those who ask for forgiveness as well as to those who do not ask us for forgiveness.

To forgive means we do not use social media to degrade or humiliate the people we want to “pay back” someone for hurts we’ve perceived or experienced personally. God holds us accountable for our malevolence, whether malicious or in jest. Because we would not want someone to degrade or humiliate us even if they felt justified doing it.

To forgive also means we do not keep a record of past wrongs as some self-appointed vigilante. If all of us did this, there would be no one left standing since we are equal debtors. The Lord Jesus rightly says in John 8:7 (NIV), “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

In addition, to forgive means we do not lash out verbally or physically when someone cuts in front of us when we are standing in line, or we are in traffic. We extend grace to the other person as our equal who happens to be sharing a very brief “flash” of our space and time, compared to the vast eternity that lies before us all.

I’ve noticed an increase in social and political attacks against elected officials when the Bible teaches in Romans 13 that we are to pray for and support them, even when they do not share our political views or ideology. We should extend the same radical forgiveness we’ve received from the Lord to all other areas of our daily, human interaction.

As Christians who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have experienced God’s love and forgiveness and can share it with others. In this way, we can perform the “ministry of reconciliation” presented in 2 Corinthians 5:18 where God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and empowers us to reconcile with others.

The process of forgiveness will also help us participate in a lifelong process of emotional, psychological, and spiritual wholeness much needed in today’s troubled and very troubled world as it allows us to demonstrate His Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT), love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Won’t you practice forgiveness, and exponentially enhance the flavor of this wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday? We sure could use it today!

What a Wonderful Savior!

  1. See: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, revised and edited by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979) 5, and A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed., (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 65, 115.