LOVE AND FORGIVENESS
Not a few people, even many Christians, are under the impression that they have forgiven every sin and injustice done against them. However, the fundamental problem with their perceived forgiveness is they have conditioned their forgiveness upon their own standard, their own personal set of rules. The telling sign of a fake forgiveness is that it comes with strings attached. Their willingness to forgive only goes as far as, but never past, a certain point. Their version of forgiveness never goes beyond that certain point into the forbidden zone. Many a Christian’s willingness to forgive never goes far enough, it never reaches the level to where their forgiveness matches the kind of forgiveness they have been forgiven with by God, and to which they are called by the Word of God. The message of the Scriptures for the believer is this: Love as you are loved. Forgive as you are forgiven. With forgiveness comes the responsibility to forgive. Being loved by God comes with an obligation to love and forgive your fellow man. When there is true love there is always godly forgiveness. Conditional forgiveness is always a sign of a counterfeit love. Some people ‘forgive’ but pride, ego and bitterness lead them to an obscene and quite resilient commitment to never forget, perversely viewing all this as some sort of virtuous and meritable act. Others set firm and impenetrable boundaries for their version of forgiveness. Such statements as, ‘I forgive them, but the relationship is over’, is a blind man’s forgiveness, it is an oxymoronic statement which simply makes no Biblical sense at all. ‘I forgive them, but I don’t ever want to see them again’, is hypocrisy at its worst. Basically, it is hate wrapped in a veneer of love that is wholly transparent and empty of any sincerity and genuineness. Anyone who attaches conditions to their forgiveness isn’t really forgiving at all. Adding conditions to one’s forgiveness reveals a distinct lack of desire to forgive God’s way. Adding conditions reveals an unloving heart. Adding conditions to one’s forgiveness is tantamount to laying road spikes on the road to your future. Godly forgiveness is condition-free, and always makes for a safe and unobstructed road ahead. True love and genuine forgiveness are always free of any hindrance or barriers that would seek to impose restrictive conditions on the future of a relationship. The ironical, hypocritical and completely sinful element in ‘conditional forgiveness’ on the part of a Christian toward others is that it is not comparable to how they have been forgiven by God. Their ‘forgiveness’ is not full and free, but is stifled by an attitude which is anything but a loving and merciful one. There is no room for restrictions or conditions where love and mercy prevail. Mercy restores, it does not segregate. Forgiveness does not quarantine people, it sets them free. Those whose ‘forgiveness’ causes division or promotes isolation is not forgiveness at all, but unforgiveness dressed up to look like the real thing, for it majors upon what is conducive to their own convenience. It provides a much coveted level of comfort for themselves, and excludes any thought about the other person left in its wake. Anything that is not true forgiveness—which is always full, free and interwoven with grace—is a counterfeit forgiveness born in the desperately wicked and selfish heart of man. The only way to truly love and forgive, is to love and forgive God’s way: unconditionally.
“There is a sin that will eat you up from the inside out. It will destroy you like a growing cancer. There is a sin that will make it impossible for you to live a victorious Christian life. It is a poison to the soul. I am not talking about drunkenness, I am not referring to enslavement to a mind-altering drug, I am not speaking of fornication. These sins are certainly wicked, yet there is a ‘well respected’ sin among Christians which is equally wicked. What I am referring to is the terrible sin of unforgiveness; bitterness, an unforgiving spirit. It is a sin that will destroy its own container. And once it gets loose it will corrupt many others.” To be unforgiving is to have a mindless appetite for destruction, particularly one’s own destruction. Forgiveness is one of the great tests every Christian must eventually face. We all have forgiveness and love perfect in our minds, but when the rubber hits the road there are few Christians who stand out from the crowd of unbelievers. To forgive our fellow man as we are forgiven by God does instinctively meet with severe resistance from our sinful natures, but, nevertheless, this does not in any way free us from the obligation to forgive as we are forgiven. When someone is 100% guilty of having sinned against you, there is a high sense of moral justice that automatically springs into action in all of us. However, for the Christian, there should be in our hearts the ever-present knowledge and gratefulness of God’s merciful and gracious forgiveness of us. Thus, the overriding motivation to love and forgive should always be preeminent in how we treat others. Those who are 100% guilty of sinning against us, should be forgiven 100% by us. Most Christians have perfect forgiveness, in theory, but a quite imperfect, and, therefore, sinful forgiveness in practice. Many have a quite corrupt perspective on how they view their treatment of others due to a natural bias that tends to hold ourselves up as right and justified in just about anything we do. We tend to see ourselves in a favorable light—even when we do not forgive because of the injustice done against us—however, when the revealing Light of God’s Word is shone upon our lives we see the stark reality of our own sinfulness. If love and forgiveness, grace and mercy are not predominant in your Christian walk with God, you need to take an honest and objective look at yourself, and a fresh look at what the Scriptures clearly teach concerning these most important and essential virtues: love and forgiveness.
The word forgive means to “give, grant, allow, remit (a debt), pardon (an offense). In late old English it was used in the sense of ‘to give up desire or power to punish’. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me”. Forgiveness is to forgo the punishment of others for what they have done to you. Forgiveness is love’s response to sin. Forgiveness is a refusal to engage in responding sinfully to what anyone has done against you. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3 cf. 2 Cor. 5:15); “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). Forgiveness always puts yourself last and your fellow man first. Forgiveness is to humbly accept the fact you have been sinned against, and then meekly and gently responding with love and forgiveness, kindness, grace and mercy. “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3 cf. Mk. 9:50). You cannot have truly forgiven if your ‘forgiveness’ is in any way causing injury or harm to others. If you deprive those who have sinned against you of your full blown love, you have not forgiven as ye ought. Forgiveness is the opposite of vengeance. Forgiveness frees you from the hurt you received, and also frees the one who sinned against you from the pain they feel for having hurt you. Forgiveness is the great healer. Genuine forgiveness without love is impossible, just as true love is impossible without the presence of genuine forgiveness.
“It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life. The word ‘forgive’ means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation. Literally aphiemi means to send from one's self, to forsake, to hurl away, to put away, let alone, disregard, put off. It conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation and refers to total detachment, total separation, from a previous location or condition. It means to send forth or away from one's self. It refers to the act of putting something away or of laying it aside. In secular Greek aphiemi initially conveyed the sense of ‘to throw’, and in one secular writing we read ‘let the pot drop’ (aphiemi). From this early literal use the word came to mean leave or let go. Aphiemi refers to the act of putting something away or of laying it aside and as used in the present context means that God lets go of the obligation we ‘owe’ Him because of sin against His holiness. It means to remit (to release from the guilt or penalty of) as one would a financial debt (e.g., on the Rosetta stone it refers to the ‘total remission’ of certain taxes). Unfortunately the English word ‘forgive’ does not adequately picture the meaning of the Greek.” “If you love let it show, if you hate let it go.” If you have not caused a full and eternal separation from the sin committed against you, by your forgiveness of it, and loving commitment to the sinner through genuine forgiveness, then you have yet to forgive, you have yet to let go. Separation from the sinner is not forgiveness. Separation from the sin committed against you is what true forgiveness is all about. In light of the true meaning of forgiveness, it is nothing short of amazing that some Christians believe they have forgiven when the only separation they have brought about by their response to sin, is between themselves and the one who sinned against them, instead of themselves and the sin committed against them. Forgiveness is protecting a relationship with love by refusing to allow any sin to destroy it. The reason why people ‘struggle’ with forgiveness is they have little to no desire to forgive. Their will is not to properly forgive from the heart, but to ‘forgive’ in a way that is most convenient for them. They want forgiveness to serve them so that they do not have to serve it. Unforgiveness always sacrifices its victims to self. Conversely, Biblical forgiveness always sacrifices self for the love of God. Biblical forgiveness always puts the one who has sinned against you first, and not yourself. It always cares for the other person more than for oneself. “Jesus tells us to pray ‘…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’ (Matt. 6:12). Our sins are like debts. Now if you cancel someone’s debt – that’s great for them. But the debt doesn’t just vanish. There’s still a cost – it just means that now you bear the cost, rather than them. It still hurts, it’s still costly, it’s still sacrificial to forgive.”
No Christian has any problem whatsoever in being forgiven the way God has forgiven them, and being loved the way God loves them. There are no complaints, no murmurings to be heard among any one of them. They are so grateful, and love God so much for all that He has done for them that has resulted from His love for them and forgiveness of them. They praise God for having forgiven them all their sins in Christ. They thank the Lord Jesus for taking the punishment they deserved, and for nailing their sins to His cross. They rejoice in His love, and gratefully welcome His full, free and unconditional forgiveness of them. And yet, when it comes to living a life of forgiveness toward others—fully loving and freely forgiving all—the way they are freely and fully loved and forgiven by God, many discover the sad fact they are not so willing to love and forgive others as they are willing to be loved and forgiven by God. They love God, thank God and praise God, but not to the point where they will love and forgive their fellow man to the same degree. Indispensable to the praising of God for His love and forgiveness should be loving and forgiving your neighbour in the exact same way. Anyone who believes we are, in some cases, exempted from loving and forgiving others the same way God loves and forgives us, does not know what they are talking about. Many Christians, as witnessed in their daily walk, evidently have great difficulty loving as they are loved, and forgiving as they are forgiven. People have made numerous excuses for themselves as to why this is so, but the only Biblical answer to any problem any man has in loving and forgiving his neighbor is sin. Not loving and not forgiving is nothing but sin. Your obedience to sin is the only thing that will prevent your freely loving and fully forgiving those who have sinned against you.
Importantly, while it is your sin nature that has reflexively caused you to momentarily feel hatred in your heart for the person who has sinned against you, it is nothing but your own conscious will that leads to maintaining that anger toward the person through the sin of unforgiveness. Anger and forgiveness cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. Christians must properly deal with anger, and the quickest way to do so is by choosing to love and forgive as they are loved and forgiven by God. We must see to it that any anger because of sin must be snuffed out and replaced with a full, free and restorative forgiveness. “In many respects forgiveness is probably the most difficult of all human virtues to practice. Yet it remains central to any lasting restorative process, personal or collective, though its importance is often underrated and unspoken. On the surface it sometimes seems an unfair thing to attempt given the pain caused by an injustice. But practicing forgiveness is a foundation stone for healthy living. It is the step we need to take to be free of the ongoing negative effects of past injustice. It has transformative qualities not found elsewhere. To decide to forgive is to create a different future from one controlled by events from the past…It means remembering the past in a different way, leaving one free to develop the future. One becomes re-empowered to choose a future not controlled by events from the past.” Forgiveness is choosing to live according to love not hate. Forgiveness is choosing to live God’s way, and not your way or in accord with how others have treated you. Anger, hatred, resentment, bitterness, etc., can only be defeated by a whole-hearted willingness to love and forgive. It is one thing to have the principle of love and forgiveness established in one’s mind, but quite another to actually put it into practice on a day-to-day basis in the real world. Many people cannot/will not do this, and so, have settled for a cheap imitation of forgiveness that suits their needs at the expense of others.
God freely loves His people—“the heirs of promise” (Heb. 6:17)—and God fully forgives His people their every sin. No one can base any argument on Scripture that will allow them to love and forgive any other way, other than the way God loves and has forgiven His people: 100%. There is no other kind of genuine, real, forgiveness than absolute full and entirely unconditional forgiveness. There is only one kind of genuine forgiveness, and that forgiveness is unconditional. Forgiveness is love prevailing. Forgiveness is love in full bloom. Forgiveness is undeserved and incalculable love. Nothing in Scripture will support a Christian whose heart is unwilling to believe this. Nothing in Scripture will support anyone who believes they have a right not to forgive their brethren as God has forgiven them both. Remember, the Christian brother you refuse to forgive has already been fully and freely forgiven by God, and so who are you to have the unmitigated gall to not forgive them in like fashion. Why would you not want to forgive someone whom God has fully and freely forgiven? Why would you not want to reconcile with someone whom God loves? Why would you not want to be with a repentant Christian brother, or sister? The only excuse anyone can come up with is, ‘They hurt me’. If you recognize yourself as such a person, your problem is unforgiveness and an utterly unloving attitude. The problem is not the sin that was committed against you, but your sin of unforgiveness. “The sickness is yourself.” The ‘sin virus’ is in all of us, and the only way to fight it is with love. The Christian is to love God with all his heart, mind and soul, and his neighbor as himself. These are the greatest commandments, and if the greatest, then they are the two most seriously important directives from God for His people to comply with. If your life does not comply with these two greatest commandments you have no hope of living the true Christian life. A lifestyle, or mindset, of ‘I am not going to forgive’ or, ‘I am not going to love’ toward even one person and you can forget about being a Christian. Christianity, being a true child of God, comes with responsibilities and God expects His children to fully submit, and be subject, to those responsibilities. To be more and more like His Son every day, you must love and forgive as you are loved and have been forgiven by God. Those who stubbornly assert that such a thing is impossible, simply do not want to forgive. They are just looking for a way to escape their responsibility to forgive as they are forgiven, by convincing themselves they cannot do it, when in reality, it is because they will not do it. Inadvertently, or intentionally, disowning certain aspects of yourself or your life is an extremely negative act which can only harm the one doing it. Do not ignore your obligation to love and forgive one and all, but take responsibility in your Christian life. Act on love. If you are not acting on the love of God for you, by allowing the love of God to flow through you toward others by your forgiving them and loving them as yourself, you are a liar when making the claim that you love God. When you say to God ‘I love you God’, and yet you refuse to love and forgive your neigbour, God, through His Holy Word responds to you by saying ‘You are a liar’. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20). If you are told to love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven then it IS possible. Love and forgiveness God’s way are not only possible, they are essential to the Christian life, and they are expected in the Christian life. Love and forgiveness IS the only Christian life. Love and forgiveness IS the only Christian way.
Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Loving your neighbor is forgiving your neighbor. Loving your neighbor is loving God by forgiving your neighbour. Loving your neighbour as yourself will only be achieved when you love God with all your might. You cannot love God and not forgive your neighbour especially if they are Christian. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20). Unforgiveness is a manifestation of self-love. Unforgiveness is hate. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 Jn. 3:10 cf. 2 Jn. 5,6). Notice this Scriptures does not expect us to like our brother, but to love him. To love is to do good, think good, speak good concerning our brother. You cannot make yourself like anyone, but you can make sure you do no one any harm and only do them good by loving them. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). We are not expected to like, but we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves. If you do not righteousness you are not of God. If you do not love your brother you are, likewise, not of God. “…he that loveth not his brother…is not of God…” (see 1 Jn. 3:10). You cannot get anything more serious than a sin which evidences you are not a child of God. Hating your brother is not forgiving your brother is not loving your brother. “…be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23 cf. Gal. 6:7). There are consequences to every sin you have ever committed. You cannot escape this law of the universe. Attitude, particularly how we respond to God’s commands, reveals what is happening within a person, and if the sin of not loving your brother by not forgiving your brother resides within you, YOU are not of God! If this is the way you choose to live your life YOU are NOT Christian! For the Christian there is no way of escaping these two great commandments to love God with your life and your neighbour as yourself, and no true Christian would ever want to. Christians love to hear that they are to love God, but when you mention that this includes loving you neighbor as yourself and forgiving your neighbor in precisely the same manner as God has forgiven you, many stumble and mumble their way into concocting and accepting excuses for themselves as to why they do not really have to. No true Christian would ever seek to not love God with all their being or their neighbor as themselves. No true Christian would ever have a problem with objectively studying out love and forgiveness, and then incorporating these virtues into their everyday lives. The true Christian seeks not to escape either commandment, he does not run from a loving and forgiving God, so why would he ever want to run from loving and forgiving his neighbour as himself. Fear fuels unforgiveness. Love for God motivates and maintains a loving and forgiving attitude toward our neighbour. The true Christian does not run from love and forgiveness, but eagerly gravitates toward them. The true Christian loves as he is loved by God, and he forgives others just as he is forgiven by a loving and merciful God. These two directives are not only commands for the Christian—what they should do—they actually describe what a Christian is like: one who loves God unreservedly and one who loves others by forgiving them as he himself is forgiven.
To love without any conditions, and to instantly forgive our neighbor without any hesitation whatsoever is the normal way of life for the Christian. The Christian should be as quick to forgive as he is to take his next breath. The forgiven life is a forgiving life. The Christian life is a loving life. So many believers are living substandard Christian lives by not forgiving as they are forgiven. By grace they know, understand and believe the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, and yet they falter badly when it comes to loving and forgiving their fellow man, even other believers and family members. Many who do not know and believe the true Gospel, love and forgive better than those who do, while true Christians—those who do know and believe the Gospel— fail miserably in the area of Scripturally loving God by loving and forgiving their fellow man. Many have established and settled on a form of forgiveness, their own personal interpretation of forgiveness, which suits them best, but which does not conform to God’s way of forgiveness. Their version of forgiveness conveniently complies with what suits them best rather than with what the Lord has commanded. This is no different to the way the world forgives. The natural concept of forgiveness in natural sinful man is to forgive but not forget, it is to forgive, but not without conditions attached such as, ‘I forgive them and am not going to retaliate against that person, but they are not going to be in my life any longer’. To intentionally avoid someone is not forgiveness. Ostracization is retaliation! Anything outside of love IS retaliation. This worldly form of ‘forgiveness’ includes boundaries and conditions, a self-imposed and non-scriptural set of rules which the person has established to forgive up to a point, but to go no further than how much they are prepared to ‘forgive’. This type of ‘forgiveness’ always serves the sinned against person, never the sinner. Such people seek to protect themselves from any future pain and hurt from that person, while failing to realize they are hurting the person, and themselves, by not fully forgiving them. They care more about an inordinately fear-driven sense of self-preservation than obedience to the command of God to love Him with all their being, AND their neighbour as themselves. “…where there are psychological disturbances and immaturities, where there is distortion and unreality, these instincts become warped and no longer work constructively.” Such people have a personalized Christianity rather than God’s Christianity. A ‘forgiveness’ with limits is no forgiveness at all. It does not resemble God’s forgiveness in any way. Limitations and boundaries are sinful when they preclude one from a proper Scriptural forgiveness, and they make Biblical forgiveness seem quite impossible. The forgiveness which is natural to fallen sinful man is a sham for it is interwoven with hatred, bitterness and pride expressed in limitations and boundaries. Limitations and boundaries do not come from love, but bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness. Conditional forgiveness is really no forgiveness at all, for true Godly forgiveness is founded on love, and so, is free of any restrictions or conditions whatsoever. True forgiveness knows no boundaries because true love is unconditional. The Christian has no right to expect full and free forgiveness from God, and yet consciously refuse to forgive others in the exact same way. There is nothing more evil than a forgiven person who harbor’s an unforgiving heart.
Listen to how the Christian is to live his life, to how the Christian is expected to live his life: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). “…be ye kind one to another…” how? By “…forgiving one another” to what degree? “…even as Christ forgave you…” (Col. 3:13 cf. 1 Jn. 2:6). These are not suggestions, they are commands. This is how a Christian lives. Does your life reflect what these verses are saying? Do you show kindness and a tender heart to others by forgiving them as Christ has forgiven you? If not why not? Are you honest with yourself and with God, or do you make excuses for any unforgiveness in your heart? For forgiveness to be forgiveness one must forgive without condition, and without erecting boundaries and barriers between you and those who have sinned against you. Anything which falls short of this level of forgiveness is not true forgiveness. Clearly, forgiveness for the Christian is imperative. The command to love is a command to forgive. If God’s forgiveness was conditional, you would not call it forgiveness, so how can you call what you do, forgiveness, when you know in your heart of hearts you have not forgiven as God has forgiven you? True forgiveness frees a person from any debt owing because of their sin. Conditional forgiveness insists that the sinner pay some price for what they have done. This is not loving your neighbour as yourself, but loving yourself only. Anything short of unrestricted love and unconditional forgiveness for one and all comes from a heart which belongs to a person who refuses to love and forgive the way they are loved and forgiven by God. Clearly, this is a situation that is wholly unacceptable. Surely the Christian whom God has forgiven for Christ’s sake, can forgive others for Christ’s sake, too. Surely they must want to. Surely they will make it their life’s work to not permit anything to stand in the way of their forgiving everyone everything. Forgiveness of those who have sinned against you IS loving God. You simply cannot love God without loving your neighbour as yourself, and you are not loving your neighbour if you do not forgive your neighbour. You are not even a child of God, the Scripture says, if you do not love your brother (see 1 Jn. 3:10). Succinctly put, unforgiveness is a refusal to forgive. Unforgiveness is trial by execution. Unforgiveness is judgment without mercy. Unforgiveness is nothing but the end product of being tempted to rebel against God by holding grudges toward others. Unforgiveness never happens accidentally, but is always intentional. You cannot stumble into the sin of unforgiveness, for it is always a conscious, predetermined and very sinful decision. The Christian should see to it “…to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). We need to face the discomforting fact that when we sin we actually sin intentionally. You cannot do what you don’t want to do. Like the apostle Paul (see Rom. 7:15), we may not want to do something in theory, in accord with the standard of holiness we know we are to live by, but when we sin we do so intentionally, otherwise, we would not be guilty of our own sins. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14,15).
Unforgiveness can only be given birth to, kept alive and thriving, by the one who will not love. Christians are only kidding themselves if they do not forgive as they have been forgiven. They are only playing games with themselves and God when their intention and action is to not fully forgive. Love and forgiveness do not drive with the handbrake on, nor is there a brake pedal in the vehicle. Love and forgiveness drive with their foot flat to the floor! Love forgives all the way, and forgiveness loves all the way. You may fool others into thinking you are a lovely and forgiving person, but you cannot fool God into believing your conditional forgiveness is somehow equivalent to God’s unconditional forgiveness. Do you honestly think that God cannot see through your unforgiveness? Do you think you have in some way successfully shielded this sin from the eyes of God? “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Do you honestly think your unforgiveness does not matter, or that it has escaped God’s notice? Unconditional forgiveness and conditional forgiveness are diametric opposites. One is real and the other is a counterfeit. One forgives, the other does not. To not forgive is to not be kind and tenderhearted. It is to eschew mercy and compassion and embrace evil and selfishness. Christians who have consciously decided to place themselves before their Christianity, who have veritably mocked their own Christianity, whose allegiance favors themselves more than God, will only, at best, end up with a problematic life. Such people have confused their Biblical responsibility—what they should do and what they should not do—with what they want. The ‘type and extent’ of forgiveness must correspond with the nature of God’s eternal and unconditional forgiveness toward all His people.
As readily as a Christian has embraced God, as much as a Christian wants God’s love and forgiveness, so should every Christian be just as ready, willing and eager to love and forgive their neighbour. Forgiveness is an “intentional action taken to achieve a specific objective”. Forgiveness is love’s means of revealing itself. You are not loving your neighbour as yourself if you have not forgiven your neighbour as God has forgiven you. You will not Biblically forgive your neighbour if you do not uninhibitedly love your neighbour. Christians are not to refrain from acting on the love and forgiveness of God which every Gospel believer has been blessed with. The Christian is to never hold back love and forgiveness from anyone, after all, who are we to refuse to forgive anyone as we have been forgiven by God. Who are we who have been forgiven everything to refuse to forgive anything done by anyone against us? How can you praise God for, and rejoice in, His forgiveness of you, and yet refuse to forgive others in the same loving way? True Christians celebrate God’s forgiveness of them by forgiving others in the exact same way. True Christians do not just praise God for His forgiveness of them, they love God by forgiving others the same way He has forgiven them. They display His love in their forgiveness of others. Unforgiveness comes from a prideful heart that will gradually become so hardened, so calloused, a person will begin to see their unforgiveness as justified. In fact they will cease to see it as unforgiveness, and begin to view it as just the normal way of life. No one but you can harden your heart. Once unforgiveness gets into your blood stream, as it were, once you begin to view it as a viable alternative in life, as a normal acceptable way of Christian living, there is nothing but misery that awaits you.
God’s love and forgiveness toward His people should not only involve our rejoicing in God’s forgiveness of us, but Christians need to make sure that God’s forgiveness toward them, has a flow- on effect toward their fellow man, especially toward fellow believers, and family members. Our praise to God for His forgiveness of us should never be without our forgiveness of others. God’s forgiveness of us should overflow into the lives of everyone He brings to us. The Christian life is a celebration of God: the love of God and the forgiveness of God. There is no better way to celebrate God than to love Him with our lives and our neighbour as ourselves. The Christian life is a life of purpose. God’s love and forgiveness of us should be expressed through us by showing that same love and forgiveness toward others. As the Christian does not hide God’s Gospel away, but preaches it to every creature, so too, our forgiveness and love should not be hidden away from the lives of those who need our love and forgiveness. Do you really want to express your love to God for His forgiveness of you? Then love and forgive all others. Pass on this magnificent blessing to others. Show everyone how much God has forgiven you, by Biblically forgiving all those who have sinned against you. Show everyone your love for God by your forgiveness toward your fellow man. Love by forgiveness and forgive because of love. God’s love is a dynamic love, a pulsating love that is never dormant, but always active. The love and forgiveness of His people by His people must be the same. It can never be selective, but must always be a gracious, all-encompassing love, a gracious and merciful forgiveness toward everyone no matter what they have ever done to you. “Grace teaches men not to live in sin, but to abstain from it.” Let God’s love and forgiveness of you completely take you over and manifest itself in your dealings with others.
Jesus said “…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44 cf. Lk. 6:35; Rom. 12:14). If this is how the Christian is to be toward his enemies, those that curse him, those that hate him, those that despitefully use him and persecute him, how much more those that are his fellow brethren and family members. If we are to love our enemies, how much more our friends. If we are to love our enemies, how much more imperative is it to love and forgive our brethren. The significance of all this is encapsulated in the fact that if a man does not love his brother, he cannot be of God, “…he that loveth not his brother is not of God” (1 Jn. 3:10). Why, if we are to love our enemies, do we prevent ourselves from loving our brethren by not forgiving them as we ought? The saying goes “we always hurt the ones we love”, but more damning is the fact that we so often refuse to forgive the ones we love. Unforgiveness is simply a refusal to love. If we are to bless them that curse us, how much more them that bless us? If we are to do good to them that hate us, how much more should we do good to them that love us? If we are to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, how much more should we pray for them that love us and who want nothing but the best for us? How much more should we love and forgive those who love us by forgiving us our unforgiveness toward them. Why would you not want to love and forgive a Christian brother or sister who loves and forgives you, and whom God loves and has forgiven? The unforgiving Christian has nothing but love looking back at them. Love from God, and love from their brother and sister in Christ whom they refuse to forgive. Love your brethren by forgiving your brethren. Love your husband, wife, children, father, mother, brother, sister by freely and fully forgiving your husband, wife, children, father, mother, brother, sister.
It is so ironical and completely hypocritical when a Christian takes pride in loving his enemies, but who refuses to forgive a brother in Christ the way they are forgiven by God! It is so ironical and completely hypocritical when a Christian loves his non-Christian friends, but will not forgive their very brethren! We selfishly and unlovingly make excuses for those people we want in our lives, while discarding those we don’t by not forgiving them as we ought. How can you consciously, comfortably and happily love your enemy and do good to them that hate you while simultaneously refusing to love your brethren by not forgiving your brethren! Stop reading this book now and contact that person or persons you know in your heart and in your mind you have refused to forgive as you know you are forgiven by God, and love them by forgiving them and restore that relationship AS IF THEY HAD NEVER SINNED AGAINST YOU! True forgiveness can only be according to true love, not fake love. FAKE LOVE STOPS WHEN IT DOES NOT GET ITS OWN WAY! “True love will never pass, fake love will never last." True love causes the attention to be focused on God and His will. Fake, virtue-signaling, love always focuses the attention on you. True love, real God-authored love, takes on everything, it gets through everything, it wades through all the muck and mire. True love is patient and kind, it takes all the hits and the kicks and the eye gouging and still comes out loving! True forgiveness sees to it that “…THE OFFENSE NO LONGER CONDITIONS THE RELATIONSHIP, and the result of forgiveness is that harmony is restored…the important thing about forgiveness is to accomplish reconciliation". One can always tell if one has properly forgiven by looking at the current state of the relationship. Is it whole and intact because of love, or has a wedge been driven through it because of unforgiveness? When a relationship is based on true love forgiveness comes easy. If you are truly walking with God, what’s the problem? Every Christian’s relationship should be conditioned on, and directed by, love, not on any sin committed against you. The whole purpose of forgiveness is to show God’s love in you, to actually do something with that love, and to restore things to where they were before any sin had occurred. Does love really make a difference in your life? Are you treating those who have sinned against you any differently to how you would have treated them before you were saved? True forgiveness is a reflection of exactly how much God has forgiven you. The only thing that will stop you from loving and forgiving is the pride, bitterness and ego which have conspired to deceive you into thinking such feelings are helping you, when all the while they are destroying you from the inside. Forgiveness means no recriminations via actions, words or thoughts, EVER!
To be fully committed to God is to love God with all your being which includes loving your neighbour as yourself, and forgiving your neighbour as God has forgiven you. To fully and truly appreciate the blessing of God’s love and forgiveness in our lives, we should see to it that God’s forgiveness of us flows fluently and unreservedly through us toward our neighbor. No true Christian would have it any other way. Love and forgiveness must prevail, for a ‘Christian’ life without these virtues is vanity. True Christians fight against unforgiveness, they do not allow themselves to be captured and enslaved by it. Love and forgiveness are always active, never passive. Love and forgiveness are dynamic forces which should be fully operational and readily noticeable in every believer. There is no Scripturally supportable reason for unforgiveness to play an active role in any Christian’s life. Honesty in the believer must begin with a sincerely honest and serious appraisal of ourselves. Are we really loving the way we are loved? Have we really forgiven that person as God has forgiven us. Is how I am treating that person conducive to expressing love and forgiveness or hatred and unforgiveness? Will an act of love express forgiveness or hatred? All of us know the true answer to such questions. When we genuinely examine and question ourselves we need always to allow only the Scriptures to reply. If we settle for anything less, or more, than what the Scriptures dictate, then it begs the question why we ever began examining ourselves in the first place, indeed, why we ever wanted to become a Christian. No true Christian should have any problem asking themselves these questions. And, no true Christian should have any hesitation in re-adjusting things in their minds and hearts that refuse to comply with God’s greatest Commandments: Love God with your life and your neighbor as yourself. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
True love and forgiveness loves and forgives even when confronted with bald-faced hatred. Love and forgiveness are not primarily about people, but about your relationship with God. The level of love and forgiveness in your life is the truest measure of your Christianity: is it real, or are you a fake. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20). Our forgiveness of others is a reflection of our relationship with God. You cannot love God, and hate your brother. “Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life.” Love changes attitude, and the result is forgiveness. We can either choose to look down on those who sin against us, and “…stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good. If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action". Unforgiveness is never a neutral act, it is inspired and encouraged by hate. The Christian should not have to wait for someone’s apology, or request for forgiveness to inspire him to forgive. The Christian’s inspiration to forgive is the love of God for him, and His forgiveness of him. This is why one cannot legitimately say that one loves God, while simultaneously hating one’s brother via unforgiveness. The sins of those who have sinned against us are their responsibility, the responsibility of those who have been sinned against is to always love and forgive no matter what. Only those who love and forgive are living the victorious life in Christ. Only those who are loving and forgiving are living their lives to the full.