Forgiveness & Love
Consider the challenges we are given in being obedient to Jesus. There are two that stand out and one that we seldom want to admit which is the hinge-pin that prevents us from accomplishing the other two.
Any idea what it is? … Read on…
Note from Kip…
Okay, I apologize. The pretext of the image and the title sounds a bit like flowers and chocolates all the way. While we will get there, there is looming in us an obstacle that prevents getting to complete Love and Forgiveness.
Before we get to what we must control, let’s focus in on these two wonderful commandments that we must grow as Disciples of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.
Colossians 3:12-13 (CSB)
This is more than just a simple command given to us. It is an obligation, that we accept when we are gifted with the grace of Jesus. It is by our sin that He was wounded. It was our punishment that he took as the pure and perfect Lamb of God. Just as he forgives us, we are to forgive others.
Well, I forgive most people but there are some that I just can’t because they hurt me badly!
We hurt Jesus badly as well, yet He forgives us.
Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (CSB)
While the fact that Christ forgives us should be ample cause for us to forgive others, there are still additional reasons that we should be willing to forgive due to the internal suffering the failure to forgive planted in us.
Bitterness, anger, wrath, slander, are planted in our hearts and they eat away at us constantly diminishing the joy that we should be experiencing.
Along with the malice that is harbored toward those individuals, these seeds are constantly working their damage to us as we resist.
But what about those that hate me and are actively seeking to do harm to me?
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:44-45 (CSB)
No, no. We don’t get a pass for those who are actively seeking to do us harm. Forgiveness isn’t an option for us if we are going to truly follow Jesus and be obedient to Him.
He tells us clearly to forgive as He forgives and if you really consider the fact that He knew before He began to create our world, what harm we would inflict on Him, He forgave us. He forgave us with such ferocity, that having an advanced awareness of how we would harm Him with our sin on the cross, He still chose to love. He loved us so much as to forgive us everything, instead of harboring that hate. As a result, He followed through with creation, setting in place the road to Calvary and our restoration.
As we talk about forgiveness the topic of love is raised.
Forgiveness and love a very strongly linked. It becomes infinitely more difficult to forgive without love. It likewise is impossible to restrain forgiveness while we love.
Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15 (CSB)
The reason for this artifact of love is found in Colossians 3:14. Love, in fact, is “The perfect bond of unity.”
I grew up in the ‘Hippy Era’ of the early 60’s through to the early 70’s. We still see a few old hippies hangin today, pretty much as they did then. They were known for phrases like, ‘Make Love, not War’, ‘Love & Peace’, and ‘All You Need is Love’.
They almost had it right. The problem was that their version of love was sexual and brotherly. Their version of peace was nothing more than the absence of war. If they had embraced the love of Jesus, they would have found His peace as well.
Enter the Jesus Freak movement, which could be defined as the hippie version of a generational revival. Not all hippies evolved into Jesus Freaks. There were imitators who just wanted to belong to something and feed off the community. But there was true revival and the revolution in modern contemporary Christian music.
I went through all that just to say that what the hippies seemed to have stumbled onto what that Love and Peace was the answer for a world in turmoil. They just missed the source of that Love and Peace and tried to realize it through sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.
There’s a love greater than any other love, that love imparted to us by God when He sent is one and only Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. That love lives in us and grows in us, but only if we allow that to happen.
Sadly, some Christians harbor too much hate and lack of forgiveness to allow this love to flourish. Other Christians exhibit this love, but it doesn’t reach very far from the front steps of the church.
In either case, we aren’t doing much better than the hippies in addressing the love that Christ gave us to share with the world.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:7-10 (CSB)
Even when we press outward, extending that love Jesus gave us outside of our churches we have those that we find unlovable.
Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (CSB)
This is where we need to get. This is our objective. We are to love in the same manner that Jesus loves us. That doesn’t have a carve-out for those that are unlovable, those who practice evil, those who we stand in opposition to, those who we are at war with. Not if we are going to love as Christ loves us.
What Keeps Us From Love and Forgiveness
If we understand what we are called to, why is it so difficult to truly love and forgive as Christ did for us? He’s given us the power to do it, but yet we still find it so very difficult to allow that love and forgiveness extend to the far reaches of our lives.
There is an answer to the question. But it perhaps is the most difficult issue to identify for some of us and the most prevalent in all of us.
Do not have other gods besides me.
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.
Exodus 20:3-6 (CSB)
Virtually anything that we place in front of God is an idol, a god we have created. The most common god we find diverting our loyalty, is self.
The God of Self
The god of self is what suppresses our ability to love and forgive. It is what places limits to forgiveness and boundaries on love. Worse even more than this, it inhibits our ability to be obedient to Christ’s commands.
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37 (CSB)
We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Jesus said it! He also said something else.
If you love me, you will keep my commands.
John 14:15 (CSB)
Did He tell us to love? Did He tell us to forgive?
He also told us to have no other gods before Him as well.
If you are going to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ you must learn to love, learn to forgive. To get there, we are going to need to deny ‘self’ and to adorn ourselves in His image.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16:24 (CSB)
‘Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words’ contains this comment regarding ‘Cross’ in this passage.
The NT applies stauros metaphorically to all followers of Christ. Jesus declares in the gospels that the way of Christ, the way of the “cross”.
Stauros is the word that is being translated to the English word ‘cross’.
So if we want to follow Jesus, we have to deny self, adhere to the Gospel setting out on the ‘way of the cross’, and really follow Jesus.
Applied to what we are talking about here, if we are to love and forgive as Christ does, we are going to have to begin by nailing self to that cross we pick up to follow Him, because it is only when we have put self to death that we can truly love and forgive without reservation.