2. When you forgive, you give others what God has already given you.
Christians have always believed that unless we are forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, we have no joyful relationship with God in this life or the eternal life to come.
Without being forgiven by others and forgiving those with whom we journey in this life, we will never experience joyful relationships. Christianity as a living faith simply does not, cannot, and will not exist without forgiveness, which is why the ancient Apostles Creed teaches us to confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, “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.” To make sure we don’t miss that point, in Mark 11:25 Jesus also says, “When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
If we wonder what this forgiveness looks and feels like in real life, Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12-13, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” In Ephesians 4:32 he adds, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Jesus Christ stepped in our place to suffer and die for our sins so that we could be forgiven. Jesus rose from death to conquer both sin and death so that we could be in loving relationship with God forever.Have you experienced God’s tender mercy? Is that the depth and breadth of forgiveness you pass along to others?
Forgiven people are to be forgiving people. That’s the big idea we hear from both our Lord and his lead apostle, Paul. It’s nothing less than hypocrisy to be forgiven and not be forgiving. What we have done to Jesus is worse than what anyone has done to us. We have no right to be forgiven and then be unforgiving. We cannot have it both ways.
When we sin, we want God and others to give us grace. But when someone sins against us, we want justice executed against them. Grace for us and law for them is the depth of ungodliness. Grace for us and grace for them is the peak of godliness. Giving grace just as God has given us grace doesn’t mean that what they did was no big deal, didn’t harm us, or that we even want to be close to them in the future. Forgiveness is how we “bless” even our “enemies” as Jesus taught (Luke 6:27-35) and how we conquer evil with good (Romans 12:20-21).