2005-02-22 - Forgiveness
1 Corinthians 13:13, "Now these three abide, faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love."
We will be returning to the Ephesians study soon, but I would like to continue moving forward with this topic of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is pure giving. Forgiveness, true forgiveness, expects nothing in return. If we expect something in return, something like, "because I am forgiving you this wrong that you did to me...you owe me," it is not forgiveness. Forgiveness must have no strings attached. Forgiveness is love expressed to one who does not deserve love. Is this not exactly what Christ has done for us? It is, and in Christian forgiveness we can, and should, remember that we were forgiven when we were unlovable. This is part of being Christlike. We forgive when the one we are forgiving doesn't even deserve our offer of forgiveness. But this is how Christ has loved us.
In addition, there is no guarantee that our offer of forgiveness will be accepted. Is this not exactly like the offer of forgiveness in the atonement of Christ? It is. Christ offers forgiveness for sin past, present, and future, but so many who hear this offer of forgiveness reject it. Some think it is too good to be true, that they are just too bad to be forgiven and that the forgiveness offered for them can't be real. Others reject the gospel offer of forgiveness for various other reasons. But let us not mistake this: There is no guarantee that when we offer forgiveness to someone who has wronged us, that they will accept our offer. They may react various ways, just as people do to the gospel. They may reject it out of hand, they might deny their need for forgiveness, they might turn around and accuse you. All we can do is what Christ does, offer forgiveness.
This is why forgiving is what I am calling giving. And this part of my course on marriage and sexuality is the heart of it. Forgiveness is vital in any relationship, because we are all sinners. But especially in a marriage relationship, forgiveness is so essential that I personally don't believe the marriage can survive without it. It is important to know how to forgive and what the steps to forgiveness are. We will hit on them in the future.
I want to talk a moment about love. Forgiveness is love expressed. It is love expressed in Christ, and as we forgive others, we model the love of Christ. Love expressed in forgiveness from our sin is absurd; we don't deserve it. Love expressed as forgiveness when someone wrongs us is absurd; they don't deserve it. But we do it, and in doing so, we show the love of Christ. True love has no limits. Forgiveness is forever, and we will get into this in the future, but true love does not bring things up from the past that have been forgiven. If we really forgive, then we don't toss it back at the other in the heat of the moment. Christ has never tossed our sin back at us in anger, because His forgiveness is perfect. Let us seek to be like Christ in this area.
Soli Deo Gloria,