LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 5)
“Forgiveness reflects the highest human virtue, because it so clearly reflects the character of God. A person who forgives is a person who emulates godly character. Nothing so much demonstrates God’s love as His forgiveness. A person who does not forgive is therefore a person lacking in godly character and without Christ-like love, no matter how correct his theology or how outwardly spotless his morals appear to be. A Christian who will not relinquish a hateful, resentful attitude toward someone who has wronged him is a person who knows neither the true glory of his redeemed humanity nor the true glory of God’s gracious Divinity.” You either have forgiveness in your heart, or resentment. That person who sinned against you is either with you, or you are against them. Genuine forgiveness cannot be faked. You will always know if you have really forgiven. “An unforgiving Christian is a living contradiction of His new nature in Christ. It is central to the heart of God to forgive, and only the Christian who radiates forgiveness radiates true godliness. Considering forgiveness from another direction, Christians need to forgive because they themselves need forgiveness. They are spiritual children and, like all children, are ignorant, weak, selfish, disobedient, and regularly in need of forgiveness, both from God and from each other. Forgiving is a give-and-take issue of life.” Some say ‘But I don’t hate that person’. My friend, not fully forgiving that person and failing to do all you can to restore a right relationship with the repentant sinner, could surely not be described as love. Unforgiveness is the very essence of hate. Unforgiveness is the first fruit of hate. Unforgiveness comes from no other place but resentment and bitterness. Unforgiveness is self-love. No matter what you say, you cannot change the consequences of your actions, nor the reality of what you do not want. Anything that is not love is hate. Those who have been forgiven the unforgiveable must always forgive their fellow sinners, especially sinners who are their equally forgiven brethren. To be unforgiving toward a brother or sister in Christ is not to rejoice with the angels over God’s love and forgiveness of them, but to condemn the one whom God has redeemed. The Christian needs to have an attitude of insistent commitment to, and consistency in, forgiving others unconditionally. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Those who say forgiveness is impossible in certain circumstances and situations and with certain people, fail to realize that forgiveness is like a cork. Not all the power of all the oceans of the world combined can keep a single cork from floating to the top! So it should be, and is, for the real Christian who is always seriously determined to, and invariably will, forgive one and all. No matter all the sins that one is confronted with and attacked by, the cork of true forgiveness will always float to the top, and, therefore, will always be unmistakably recognizable.
When the Lord Jesus was asked how often one should forgive those who sin against us, the Lord replied, “…Until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). “Christ's meaning is, that a man should be all the days, and every day of his life, forgiving those that sin against him…and that no time is to be set for the exercise of the grace of forgiveness; but as often as there are objects and occasions, though ever so many and frequent, it should be used.” “We can stop forgiving others when Christ stops forgiving us.” “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” There is no such thing as an appropriate time to cease forgiveness. There is no law which says you must not forgive. Neither time nor sin can exhaust genuine love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness reconcile. Love and forgiveness promote peace and come by grace. Love and forgiveness bring people together, they do not tear relationships apart. Love and forgiveness are gifts the believer is given and should use to bless and strengthen their relationships with others. As Christians, we can begin to pick and choose whom we will forgive when Christ begins to pick and choose among His sheep whom He will forgive. A Christian’s forgiveness should be unfettered, unconditional and no respecter of persons. There should be no time limit, and there must absolutely be no restrictions whatsoever as to whom we forgive, how often we forgive, or how much we forgive. The Christian has not been equipped with a ‘forgiveness limiter’, but with a limitless forgiveness, an unlimited and illimitable forgiveness. Nothing should be permitted to hinder, restrain or prevent our forgiving anyone. There is no cut-off point for forgiveness, no time when forgiveness is no longer applicable or necessary. As long as you love you will forgive. When forgiveness ceases love has stopped. Forgiveness can never be legitimately charged with trespassing—being where it should not be. God will never tell a believer they should not have forgiven on that occasion. Love and forgiveness have God’s permission to access all areas. The love and forgiveness in you is limitless. No one can put a halt to your loving and forgiving anyone, except you. Sin cannot overcome love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness snuff out sin. Love and forgiveness cannot restrict love and forgiveness. If you are walking in love toward God you will forgive your brethren, friends, family and enemies. The only thing that can restrict love and forgiveness is unforgiveness and self love. The only thing that can restrict forgiveness is that which is not love. The only thing which can restrict love is that which is not forgiveness. Love forgives and forgiveness loves, always UNRESTRAINEDLY and UNRESERVEDLY! Forgiveness is far too busy loving to ever fail in this endeavour, far too busy loving and forgiving to ever entertain the notion to not love and forgive. Love is too busy loving and forgiving to ever even become slightly concerned at what is done to it in return.
No one who is serious about their Christian walk with Christ will allow anything to inhibit or impede their fully loving and forgiving anyone and everyone who has sinned against them. True love and forgiveness can never be intimidated into being anything less than what they are by any sin committed by anyone. Your walk with Christ must be motivated and influenced by Him, His characteristics, how He has treated you, and not by the characteristics of those who have sinned against you. What kind of a Christian acts in accord with the evil done to him, rather than in willing compliance with the love and forgiveness shown him by God. People have literally allowed the very course of their lives to be changed and dictated to by the sins of others, instead of the love of God. Yes, sins that were committed years ago still run your life if you have not Biblically forgiven them. This is nothing but a shameful existence. Does the love of God rule your life, or is it your hatred toward those who have sinned against you? Does how God loves you and has forgiven you inspire you to do the same to others, or do you allow their sin to dictate terms as to how you will live your life and conduct yourself toward them? “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Lk. 6:31 cf. Matt. 7:12). Do not do as men do unto you, but do as you would have them do unto you. Who is it that does not want to be forgiven and loved? The loved and forgiven will love and forgive. Do you do unto others as God has done unto you and how you want others to do to you, or do you do unto others as they do unto you? Does your negative response to the actions of others run your life? Do you decide what to do in accord with how others treat you? Or do you love and forgive others as you are loved and forgiven by God? God inspires love, only you can inspire unforgiveness. Remember dear Christian, the love with which God loves you is the same love He has for the brother who has sinned against you. To not forgive is to rebel against the principle of God’s love in us. It is to rise up against the core element of what being a Christian is all about: LOVE. We are to love as we are loved, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. This is not merely theory, a principle we can head towards, but never reach, a principle that exists only theoretically but which can never exist in everyday life. Love and forgiveness is what should be commonplace in our daily walk with God. Love and forgiveness should be second nature to the Christian. Loving and forgiving others is the way a Christian is to live his life to the glory of God. Never a day goes past without God’s love gently reminding us to love and forgive all. The motivation to forgive does not come from the person who sinned against us, no matter who they are. The motivation for all forgiveness is Almighty God and His gracious forgiveness of all His people. The fact a Christian is forgiven obliges him to only and always forgive as he has been forgiven. Any Christian who refuses to forgive a brother the way God has forgiven him, does not know which spirit he is of. Forgiveness has no desire for retribution, to pay back evil for evil, but to eschew all feelings of revenge and vengeance of any kind, and respond only with a love that is without limit. You cannot love God with all your being, and yet not love your neighbor as yourself.
For many people time heals all wounds, but for others, particularly in this age of career-victims, or as I like to call them victims for life, time only provides for the entrenchment of unforgiveness in one’s heart. The ‘blamelessness’ of victims gives them a fraudulent license to treat others any way they deem fit. The effects of unforgiven sin will only increase and make forgiveness seem all that much harder. Unforgiveness is always resident in the man who considers himself better than others. Unforgiveness is the worship of self. Unforgiveness paints the unforgiver as the eternal victim, and this victim-hood supplies the one who will not forgive with all the support they need to feel right about their decision not to forgive. When you see yourself as a victim you are always right, and no one can criticize you for what you are doing because you are a victim. “The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.” The philosophy of victim-hood is that though “…nobody wants to be a victim, what they notice is that there are, nonetheless, certain advantages to being seen as a victim”. Some people live their entire lives choosing to see themselves as a victim, thereby, justifying their unforgiveness toward others. They see their unforgiveness, even hatred, of others as a perfectly valid means of dealing with the sins of others. “…a person like this loves being offended because it makes them feel self-righteous and puts the attention on them.” For some who do not forgive, there is no need for any moral rectitude, for they are the victim and not the one they refuse to forgive. They never see the one whom they have chosen not to forgive as a victim of their unforgiveness. Any time you forgive, you are the VICTOR! What are you, friend, victim or victor? “To continue with the way some people are idealizing and rewarding victimhood, creates more and more incentive for people to desire to be seen as victims. We must instead encourage people in a way that supports their ability to move forward in their lives, without needing emotional bodyguards to protect them from the unpreventable pains of life. To do less is disrespectful of them, and it discounts the strength they have within. It treats victims as though they are less than, less than capable, less than independent, and less than whole. It treats victims as though their victimization is the most important thing about them.”
“Though nobody wants the bad that comes with being a genuine victim, people do want the good that comes with being seen as a victim. What goods would those be? A certain degree of power, at least moral power, if not political power…The aggressive act of seizing the moral high ground with respect to the other. That's at least always a morally powerful ground to occupy and often maybe even a politically powerful ground to occupy. From the moral high ground you get to command and condemn the behavior of others” while your unforgiveness goes unchallenged. Love of self, through the agency of unforgiveness, pridefully places oneself above others and arrogantly, and without a hint of love, asks, ‘Why should I forgive them? How could I ever forgive them to the point of restoring my relationship with them as if they had never sinned against me after what they have done?’ Someone once said, “Sin is like a prison cell, but pride is the lock on the door”. How can you, dear Christian, not forgive as you are forgiven! Who are you, dear Christian, to refuse to forgive others as God has forgiven you! How can you, dear Christian, go on refusing to forgive your brethren as God has forgiven them! Forgiving is a truly humbling and courageous thing to do, because it removes the status of victimhood freeing you from any sense or desire to hang on to past hurt. There are to be no restrictions, or conditions, attached to a Christian’s forgiveness, for any attempt to restrict how we forgive, how often we forgive, whom we forgive and how much we forgive, can only be something which is motivated by our sinful nature, and not the new man who is the workmanship of God. A regulated forgiveness is not godly forgiveness.
Upon seeing his fellow servant, the king’s servant, in Matthew 18, who had just been forgiven everything did not ask the man if he had the money he owed, he did not give himself any opportunity to be kind and gentle to him, but immediately began throttling him on sight! The man who had been forgiven everything, forgave nothing in return. What is it which makes a forgiven man be so unwilling to forgive others? What could have made the man so bitter after having been forgiven so much? What makes a Christian who is filled with praise and appreciation for God’s having forgiven him, not forgive others? For the forgiven not to forgive is beyond irony, it is just plain evil. All unforgiveness is always the fault of the one who is not forgiving. Unforgiveness is never caused by the harm done, or the person who has sinned. Unforgiveness can never be blamed on anyone except the person who is not forgiving. Unforgiveness is a response committed by you, not something which happens to you because of others. Unforgiveness is YOUR sin, and no one else’s. Many conveniently, and unjustifiably transfer culpability for their unforgiveness, for what is in their own heart and coming out of their own heart, onto others. They base their ‘difficulty to forgive’ on the gravity of the sin committed against them rather than facing reality and taking responsibility for what they do. This is just another way we deceive ourselves by placing the blame for what we will not do onto what others have done to us. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). No one is responsible for your sin of unforgiveness but YOU! Irreconcilability is the direct result of unforgiveness. It can never be the fault of the repentant sinner. It cannot ever be the fault of love. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. If you have sinned against another it is your responsibility to repent of your sin and ask for forgiveness. If you have been sinned against it is your responsibility to forgive. If you have unforgiveness in your heart YOU alone are responsible for it. It literally makes no sense to blame others for what you do. Unforgiveness points its fingers straight at you as its source, and not at the sins of others committed against you. Your unforgiving attitude cannot rightly be blamed on the person who has hurt you, or on what they have done. What you do is your sin, not somebody else’s. You will be judged according to what you have done, not what others have done to you.
The sin of unforgiveness can only be blamed on the Christian who refuses to forgive the way he has been forgiven by God. The amazing part in all this is that Almighty God has actually forgiven your sin of unforgiveness! Christ Jesus has paid the penalty of the sin of unforgiveness for all His people, so why will you not forgive! Why are you so willing to perpetuate and maintain the sin of unforgiveness in your life knowing that Christ Jesus had to die for you to be forgiven of that and every other sin of yours? What in the world could possibly be stopping you from ZEALOUSLY and JOYFULLY forgiving the sins of others against you after God has shown you so much love in forgiving you! It is so ironical how the repentant sinner with forgiveness in his heart sees the person who will not forgive them, as they were, while the person who chooses not to forgive, refuses to see the repentant sinner as they are NOW! Unforgiveness will always see the ugly side, and not how a person is now. So many people live in the past and are dead to the present. Those who treat others as they were and not as they are, will never be who they should be. There is no present or future for a person who lives in the past. For those who have spent years in unforgiveness isn’t it about time you ceased blaming the other person for your unforgiveness, for your sin and for your pain. Isn’t it about time you started seeing that repentant person as they are now and not as they used to be? Isn’t it about time you started living in the present and no longer permit yourself to languish in the past. Isn’t it about time you killed the monster you have created out of your pain and suffering at having been sinned against, and simply and lovingly forgive one and all for their sins against you? Isn’t it about time you walked in the love of God! Have the courage to go to God and ask Him, ‘What should I do about what was said about me, or done against me?’, and He will always reply by commanding you to love and forgive those who sin against you and restore a right relationship with them. Ask yourself, dear Christian, ‘What has God done with my sin?’ And you will always receive the same answer: God has forgiven you your sin, go thou and do likewise among your brethren and neighbours. Anything short of complete forgiveness comes from a retaliatory attitude. There is no retaliation, no recrimination and no refutation in the heart that is blessed with the love and forgiveness of God.
Christian marriage is perhaps the most important of all relationships, and the necessity for, the significance and urgency of, forgiveness within that marital relationship can never be over-emphasized. So many Christian marriages have permitted sin, notably unforgiven sin, to needlessly break down this most precious of all relations. When love and forgiveness are paramount in both parties the sin of unforgiveness can never gain a foothold. “When couples don’t have a model or a plan for how to work through the inevitable hurts that happen within a marriage, unforgiveness and unresolved wounds develop into grudges and bitterness that can cause separations and eventually destroy marriages.” However, one must keep in mind that only death can Biblically end a marriage. Unforgiveness does not end a marriage it only keeps the two parties apart. “Unforgiveness in a marriage will eventually erode the intimacy you have built between one another. That’s because hurt left unresolved leads to a lack of trust and respect. Do you remember when you first started dating your spouse? For most of us, we couldn’t take our eyes off them. We wanted to spend every moment with them. While we knew they had flaws, we chose to look past all of that because of the love we had in our heart for them. That love enabled us to look past some of the less terrific parts of our spouse, didn’t it? Love does that. In fact, God’s love does that too. ‘Marriage becomes a series of surprises for most of us, and one of them is how frequently we need to forgive and be forgiven.’ You see, God’s love not only made a way for you to be forgiven through the life and death of Jesus for you on the cross, but His love also made a way for you to forgive others and receive their forgiveness as well.”
Unforgiveness, and everything that leads to it and gives it power in our lives is an utter enemy of every Christian. The only sin that destroys relations is the sin of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness unnecessarily destroys friendships, relationships of every kind and that most holiest of institutions: a Christian marriage. The Scripture, “…What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6), includes both the husband and wife. No one has any right through any mechanism, including unforgiveness, to drive a wedge between a husband and wife, not even the two persons involved in the marriage. To willfully do so is to directly act in defiance of this Scripture and the whole principle of love and forgiveness in and between Christian brethren. Anytime you do not love and forgive you are turning your back on God’s love and forgiveness of you. When you forgive your spouse you are loving your spouse. The love I am speaking of is a decisional love, and not one that is founded on feelings. Forgiveness does not at times come all that easy, but the Christian knows that forgiveness is the only Christian response expected, moreover, demanded by God toward a fellow sinner’s transgression. There is no more wicked act, no greater act of rebellion against God Himself, than to be unwilling to love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven. Unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, etc., are the Devil’s tools. They are things the unforgiving Christian is deceived by. The Christian life is to not about seeking justice toward others, but to be merciful and loving toward all. The Christian is only doing the Devil’s work when he willingly extends unforgiveness toward others. God commands we love our neighbor, not hate our neighbor. God commands we love our brethren, not hate our brethren. God commands we love our husband/wife, not hate them through unforgiveness.
Hanging on to past hurt does not free you from the sin that caused it. You need to distance yourself from the sin, not the sinner, by creating a chasm between their sin and you through the implementation of love and forgiveness. Distancing yourself from the sinner is nothing but a manifestation of unforgiveness, and an embracement of their sin, for it is their past sin against you which you are allowing to dictate how you live your life and what your attitude is toward them. The Christian is to always promote unity not separation. Christians should not concern themselves with what others do to them, but in how they treat others. Unforgiveness separates — love unites. The worst of separations is not the physical, but the mental aspect. When you cause the separation from a brother or sister in Christ in your mind, you are cutting them off, segregating them, from your love. The only people to whom this sounds like gibberish is those who refuse to forgive, who believe they are entitled to retaliation to some extent. To separate from a Christian husband or wife is unnatural. It is an ungodly act. While the sins of others directed at you have wounded you, it is your unforgiveness that perpetuates those wounds causing them to fester and lends longevity to them making them deeper than they would have been had you immediately opted to forgive. Unforgiveness is a sign of unresolved pain that has simply been allowed to fester into full-blown bitterness which falsely fills a person with an overwhelming sense of ‘I can’t forgive’. It is impossible to dry yourself if you remain in the water. Unforgiveness keeps open the wounds sin leaves behind. Forgiveness is the balm that always heals the wounds of sin and leaves no scars behind. Unforgiveness actually perpetuates the pain and nurtures the sin committed against you causing it to grow into something much larger than it would have been had you promptly forgiven it. What is a man’s sin against us when compared to our sin toward God? What was done or said against you is not what is important, but how you react to it. Sins committed against us are only important when we put ourselves above others. When we walk humbly and meekly, forgiveness and love are the only things that matter. Love and forgiveness are the only answer to sin. Anything else is only going to increase your own level of sinfulness, and in turn cause pain and suffering to the one who originally sinned against you. Love and forgiveness stop the cycle of sin. Holding on to past hurt only cultivates anger, hatred and bitterness and leaves forgiveness in its wake. Forgiveness is freedom, not freedom from the person who has sinned against you, but freedom from their sin and the sense of need to act vengefully against them. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness is freeing. When you’re free, you have nothing left to lose. Forgiveness is being freed. Let God’s love set you free, now ‘forgive me’.
Only love and forgiveness will free you from everything that is trying to cause division in your life. Even if the person who sinned against you is unrepentant and has ostracized you from their life, you must ensure a full forgiveness of them by never harboring a hateful attitude against them, never allowing any sinful thought or word—even in the privacy of your mind—to be formed against them. Unforgiveness not only drives a wedge between you and the person you have chosen not to forgive, but it also fractures your relationship with God. You cannot possibly have a right and beautiful relationship with God while harboring unforgiveness in your heart toward anyone. You cannot Biblically be loving the One Who will never leave you nor forsake you no matter what sin you commit, when you abandon anyone because of their sin against you. You cannot Biblically be loving the One Who will never leave you nor forsake you no matter what sin you commit, while stubbornly refusing to restore a right relationship with those who have sinned against you. What right has the forgiven person to leave and forsake anyone who has sinned against them, particularly a brother or sister in Christ, when they themselves have been forgiven and loved by God Whom they know will never leave or forsake them? (see Heb. 13:5). That is what love and forgiveness do: they never leave or forsake the one being loved and forgiven. They never act in any contrary way against anyone. “…do good to them that hate you…” (Matt. 5:44). Someone may ask themselves, ‘Have I forgiven that person?’ My question is, ‘Have you left them and forsaken them?’ How can any Christian possibly entertain unforgiveness after meditating, even for a few moments, upon the forgiving love of God? Forgiveness does not merely consist of telling God you forgive that person, but also going to that person and telling them, let them know: ‘I forgive you your sin against me, and I want to restore a right relationship with you even better than the one we had before the division occurred’. These are words which come from those who are serious about their Christian lives, who want to walk in real godly love, but they will never be heard from those who are only playing at Christianity, or think that enough time has elapsed that forgiveness does not really matter now. Real love causes forgiveness, while genuine forgiveness always promotes love. If you feel a sense of condemnation rising within you for your unforgiveness and think I am condemning you, think again and you’ll see that it is your conscience that condemns you. If you only take away one thing from this book, I hope it will be the fact that: IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO FORGIVE. “Nothing and no one is too late if you love them.” It is never too late for love, it is never too late for forgiveness and it is never too late for the restoration of a relationship, especially a marriage, particularly a Christian marriage. Forgiveness is love in action, and the actively loving Christian will always forgive and they will revel in it. Remember, it is not the sin of another that is the cause of all the trouble, but only your refusal to forgive it.
Living an actively loving lifestyle is the only way you are ever going to forgive everyone who has ever sinned against you. Ignoring sin, and avoiding the person who committed it, is never the way to be rid of it and its effects upon your life. This is nothing but a childish response to something which requires spiritual maturity. It is also a very wicked response, for it is the opposite of how a Christian should respond to anyone who sins against them. Establishing a false reality is what unforgiveness does. Unforgiveness illegitimately frees you from the responsibility to forgive and makes you comfortable in your sin. You must consciously, Biblically, deal with the sins of others by loving them, and forgiving them their sins against you. You must engage in conversation, keep the lines of communication open with the person or persons involved, love them and forgive them and do everything in your power to restore a right relationship with them. Forgiveness of sin is how God dealt with the sins of His beloved people even knowing it would mean the death of His Son. NOTHING CAN STAND IN THE WAY OF TRUE LOVE AND SUCCEED! Forgiveness of sins is how God’s people should deal with the sins of others against them in order to honor the sacrificial death of Christ. All forgiveness of sins will kill is our egos and pride. Love must dominate our thinking, our attitude, our very lives if forgiveness is to have its way in and through us. Love and forgiveness puts the needs of others first, and denounces and denies all pride any access to our lives. Often people will not forgive because they are afraid they will come across as weak and ridiculous to their friends and family if they openly forgive others and welcome them back into their lives. Are you more concerned with pleasing others than worshipping, and living for, God? Forgiveness is the Christian’s business, nothing and no one should be permitted to stand in the way of it. Love and forgiveness must have the preeminence, and let the chips fall where they may. We are not here to allow the views and opinions of friends or family to in any way dissuade us from the love and forgiveness we are commanded by God to walk in. We must, above all things, obey God. Our hearts are naturally deceitful and desperately wicked (see Jer. 17:9), and the only way to overcome all that is by loving and forgiving our neighbour as God loves and has forgiven us. Forgiveness is made possible by the death of Christ, which came by the love of God for all His chosen. This is how we forgive others, particularly the sins of our brethren for whom Christ died.
Love and forgiveness is what God commands for all His people in every situation, concerning any sin committed by anyone against them. Simply choosing to forgive does not mean you automatically forget the sin done against you or its effects on you. Forgiveness is choosing to always act with merciful love toward the one who has hurt you, and never with any resentment. Forgetting the sin is not the real issue, it’s your attitude towards it and the person behind it that is paramount. Forgiveness is repentance, it is a change of mind concerning the one who has sinned against you. Forgiveness is repentance from any and every thought of any kind of retribution or payback. Forgiveness is a rejection of bitterness and all that it seeks to bring with it. Love does not pay back evil for evil, but only forgiveness and mercy. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:4,5). Live not for yourselves, but for God: love and forgive your fellow man. Coping and overcoming all sin committed against us starts with love and forgiveness of the person who has hurt us. Let love and forgiveness run your life, do not allow unforgiveness to ruin your life. Bypassing love and forgiveness is always the fast track to a ruined life. You may never forget what was done to you, but forgiveness is the essence, the fruit, of love unlimited. Seeing others' sins against you through eyes that are fixed upon the Lord and His compassion, mercy and love, will always pave the way for nothing but forgiveness toward all. Forgive and forget means to continue your relationship with the person as if they had never sinned against you. Love them and pray for them with fervent sincerity from the heart and forgiveness will flood your very being, and joy your life. Whenever a person’s sin is remembered it should be immediately shot down by your commitment to loving God by loving and forgiving others as He has loved and forgiven you. This is the attitude we must have if we are to lead a successful Christian life. Forgive and forget does not mean forgive the sin and forget the one who sinned against you. Forgiveness is the expression of love which refuses to abandon and forsake anyone who has sinned against you. Love stands with the sinner not against him. One does not throw away the rose simply because it has thorns. Forgiveness is not acting vengefully against the one who has sinned against you, but responding with love and kindness. Do not neglect the one you claim to have forgiven, respect the one you have forgiven and love them. Be with them and show them your love, let them experience what it is like to be genuinely loved and forgiven. Be a blessing to others. They may not deserve your love, but neither are you deserving of God’s love. Let grace and compassion rule your life, for without them you would never have been saved in the first place. Forgive and forget means you choose to not act in any retaliatory way against the person who has sinned against you. Forgiveness is purposely and purposefully choosing to dismiss the sin and love the sinner. Loving is refusing to hate by unforgiveness. Forgiving is a willful obedience to God Who has forgiven you. To love and forgive God’s way is to live a life beyond the normal, it is to live life on another plane of existence in another dimension where you do not retaliate, but instead show lovingkindness and understanding toward all who sin against you. Love stands its ground in the face of sin, it does not flee, for it always forgives. No one is perfect, not even you, so to seek and expect forgiveness from God, but not show that same forgiveness toward our fellow man is the height of hypocrisy. You want love and forgiveness so love and forgive others.
“…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). You cannot love your neighbour without forgiving your neighbour. While the Jews have many laws, 613 to be precise, “Christ reduces all to two, love to God, and love to the neighbour; and the latter is the second in order of nature, time, dignity, and causality; the object of it being a creature; and the act itself being the effect of the former, yet like unto it: for though the object is different, yet this commandment regards love as the former, and requires that it be as that, true, hearty, sincere, and perfect; that it be with singleness of heart, always, and to all men; and that it spring from love to God, and be performed to His glory: and which is expressed in the words written in Leviticus 19:18 ‘Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord’. The first command sums up what man owes to God; the second, what he owes to his fellow-man. One who loves God supremely, will not live in disobedience; one who loves his neighbor as himself, will seek the welfare of those around him. The second commandment has the same sanction and punishment of the violation. It requires the same kind of love and service; for the love of our neighbour is the service of God. He who loves God will love himself in a proper degree without selfishness. God loves me as He does thee; and thee as He does me: therefore I ought to love thee, my neighbour, as myself; and thou me as thyself: for our love to each other ought to correspond to God’s love towards us both.”
The Gospel of Mark records the following words of Jesus the Lord: “…The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mk. 12:29-31). ‘Like’ in being founded in love; ‘like’ in being in fact included in the first. For, if we love God completely, we shall perform all our duties to His creatures. We are to love as heartily and sincerely, and as a man would desire to be loved by his neighbour; and do all the good offices to him he would choose to have done to himself by him. This law supposes, that men should love themselves, or otherwise they cannot love their neighbour; not in a sinful way, by indulging themselves in carnal lusts and pleasures; some are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; but in a natural way, so as to be careful of their bodies, families, and estates; and in a spiritual way, so as to be concerned for their souls, and the everlasting happiness of them: and in like manner should men love their neighbours, in things temporal do them all the good they can, and do no injury to their persons or property; and in things spiritual pray for them, instruct them, and advise as they would their own souls, or their nearest and dearest relations. And this is to be extended to every man…The love of our neighbour resembles the love of God more than all the other duties, just as the moon resembles the sun more than the stars do.” To love and forgive God’s way is to not only love those who love you, but your enemies as well, and if your enemies then also your friends, your brethren, your spouse as God loves you. There is no reason whatsoever why a Christian should not forgive other than the excuses which come by selfishness, as well as pride from a wicked, evil heart. Any unforgiveness present reveals a person is more into themselves than into God by obeying Him and forgiving their brethren. They obey their sinful natures, and by this further harden their hearts. “Our hearts are all prison walls when we hold people captive with chains of unforgiveness. Physical walls aren’t the only ones humans build. Because of our need to feel secure, we sometimes erect invisible boundaries to keep other people from getting too close. Unforgiveness is one of these walls. It’s meant to keep out the one who wronged us, but it also keeps us imprisoned in the self-destructive consequences of bitterness.” Tear down those walls dear Christian. Flee from unforgiveness and run to love and forgiveness as quickly as you possibly can. Do not let time, bitterness and resentment build a wall between you and forgiveness. There can be no true peace without forgiveness. There can be no true Christian life without love and forgiveness of the brethren. There can be no genuine love for the only true God in a heart that condones a lifestyle of unforgiveness. Sin is never the problem, it is only the unforgiveness of sin which is the culprit. “…he that loveth not his brother…is not of God…” (see 1 Jn. 3:10); “He that loveth not knoweth not God; For God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). You cannot escape the eternal truth of these two verses. The loved of God love the brethren as well as their neighbour whosoever they might be, and whatever they have done. We are to do no harm, but always be loving and kind, gentle and meek and tender of heart. We are never to harden our hearts, but rather make sure they remain loving and tender, filled with mercy and grace for one and all. No one deserves our love, but the Christian is under an eternal obligation to love.
Being sinned against gives us the opportunity to love and forgive. The sins of others against us do not give us license to sin in return, but is a clarion call to love and forgive. Being sinned against gives the Christian the opportunity to exhibit their love for God and appreciation for His forgiveness of them, by loving and forgiving others. Being sinned against should not be seized upon as an opportunity to exercise our warped sense of justice, hate or any other retaliatory act, to avenge ourselves in any way, but only and always to love and forgive. Grace, mercy and compassion is the Christian way. Every Christian reads Matthew 18 and abhors the unmerciful actions of the forgiven servant, and yet so many Christians never even realize they are acting in the exact same way toward others every time they refuse to forgive. They know they are forgiven of God, but they will not forgive others in the same way, and, on occasion, don’t even feel under any obligation to forgive because of what was done to them, or because of how long they had endured the sin or sins committed against them. Believe it or not, there are some Christians who have virtually made a pact with themselves to not forgive a person beyond a certain point, promising themselves to never ever allow the person to return to their rightful place in their lives. Such a decision is not based on love, but is founded on nothing but bitterness. Some have never even uttered the words, ‘I forgive you’, knowing that if they did there would be no reason for that particular relationship to not be fully restored. There is no justification for such premeditated hatred. All unforgiveness is hate personified.
It is the height of hypocrisy to, on the one hand, accept forgiveness from God, and then go out and not reflect that same forgiving attitude toward others. To refuse to forgive is the sign of a seriously troubled soul. Whilst not unforgiveable, the sin of unforgiveness should not even be considered by the true believer. Why would any Christian not want to forgive, but instead prefer to wreak vengeance on others? Why would any Christian prefer hate over love? Why would any Christian choose retaliation rather than reconciliation? Why would any Christian not want to love, but rather prefer to hate by adopting an unforgiving attitude? And how could any Christian justify, from the Scriptures, a prolonged period of unforgiveness toward any of his or her own brethren? Many excuse their unforgiveness by saying, ‘I want to forgive but I am finding it very difficult to; I struggle with unforgiveness.’ ‘Struggling’ with unforgiveness is simply a smokescreen we set up to blind us from what we do not want to see about ourselves, which is purely and plainly a blatantly abhorrent and prideful unwillingness to forgive. “If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego, I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind.” Unforgiveness does not come from love, so to choose to love others and not retaliate in any way, in word thought, or action, makes forgiveness your only option. Love makes forgiveness happen. God’s forgiveness toward His people brings great joy to them, and from that joyfulness can only come a heartfelt desire to, in like manner, also forgive those who have sinned against us. With salvation comes a willingness to love and forgive, a desire to love and forgive, a compulsion to love and forgive.
Thankfulness and appreciation to God should not stop at mere words, but should be allowed to blossom into actions, the actions of loving and forgiving one’s neighbour as one is loved and forgiven by God. God’s love for a man promotes nothing but love in that man for his fellowmen. If this were not so, why would the Scriptures say, “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). God’s forgiveness of a man promotes nothing else in the man but a heart-hunger to forgive anyone and everyone who has ever sinned against them. For the Christian the issue is never the sin, but one’s forgiveness of it. Love and forgiveness is of paramount importance no matter the situation or sin. Forgiveness is to act as if no sin has ever caused us to suffer any personal hurt. Forgiveness is a denial of self, it is a bowing of the knee to the love of God and a subservience to love our every neighbour as ourselves. Forgiveness is denying yourself and taking up the cross daily and following Jesus. You cannot follow the only true Jesus if you do not take up your cross daily and forgive. Jesus said, “…If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23 cf. 1 Pet. 4:1). The Christian is to deny himself and ensure that he dispenses to all who come into his life the same level of love and forgiveness with which God has loved and forgiven him.
Love always chooses to forgive the sinner, not ignore the sinner. Love never leaves the sinner nor forsakes the one who has sinned against us. If you have unforgiveness in your heart you are not walking in love. ‘Thank you God for your forgiveness of me, but I can never forgive that person their sin against me’, can only be said by a person who does not know God nor have they ever had the love of God shed abroad in their heart. The loved love — the forgiven forgive. It is just as simple as that. Anything and everything that disagrees with this is nothing but sin. People who say, ‘I wish I could forgive, but I just can’t’, are actually saying, ‘I really don’t want to forgive, so I’m not going to’. Such people have not given up on forgiveness, they have not even begun to forgive! Real forgiveness wants not to be bothered with any past hurt, but to simply, freely, seriously and unimpededly walk in the love of God which produces free and full blown forgiveness for all past hurts. God’s love in you will cause you to deny yourself and start forgiving others. Real love just wants to focus on forgiveness, not the sin which has been committed. The Christian should revel in forgiveness, not just his own, but also in his zeal to forgive others. The Christian life is all about love and forgiveness, not hatred and revenge. Moreover, there is no Christian life without love and forgiveness. The patient silence of the one you have not forgiven is no reason to go on ignoring the situation taking advantage of their Christianity. The love they are showing you is not to be tread upon, but respected by showing forgiveness and full restoration of the relationship. Love is not loud, but gentle and kind and meek. Love does not draw attention to your sin, it loves you despite your sin. Love does not protest wildly concerning any injustice suffered, for it is always busy loving. No matter who or what it is confronted by, love never changes. Love always remains love and will always produce forgiveness. Ignoring the brother or sister that has sinned against you, but who now genuinely and remorsefully repents of their sin, is ignoring God and His love and forgiveness toward you. When we ignore God we establish ourselves as God over our lives.
You will never see the repentance in the one who sinned against you through the eyes of unforgiveness. You will never accept the reality of your responsibility to love and forgive as long as you walk in unforgiveness. There is no escaping the responsibility of forgiveness for the Christian. You must face your unforgiveness and determinedly stare it down till it shrinks into nothing. Forgiveness comes easy when you walk in the love of God. The eyes belonging to the person who does not forgive only ever see their own pain, and never the other man’s sorrow in having sinned against them. Where is your compassion, dear Christian? Forgiveness frees both parties from pain. Woe to the one who shows no mercy. “For he shall have judgement without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy...” (Jas. 2:13); Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7 cf. 2 Sam. 22:26). Unforgiveness is such an evil exercise in selfishness. For the unforgiving person, it’s always about them and never about the one they should be forgiving. Forgiveness is always about the other person, while unforgiveness is always about you. If it’s always about you it’s never about God. Only one of you can sit on the throne of your life. Genuine forgiveness is never about the sin that is to be forgiven, but the love which it is to be forgiven with. In some cases, people have convinced themselves that what was done to them, or said against them is enough to justify living the rest of their lives in unforgiveness toward that person. They fill their lives with nothing else but a slavish lust to see themselves ‘have fun’ and live a ‘happy’ lifestyle while believing they are loving God even though they ignore His command to love and forgive. You can only do this if you turn your back on love and God’s directive to love your neighbour by denying yourself and forgiving your neighbour as God loves and has forgiven you. Unforgiveness pampers you while it destroys you from the inside. Those who will not forgive always place themselves first and everyone else a distant second. Those who do not forgive are not taking up their cross, they are not following Jesus. Pray that you never fall into the bottomless trap of becoming accustomed to a bitter heart, an unforgiving will and being a traitor to love. OPEN your eyes dear Christian and see the love of God for you, and then love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven by God. How do I forgive? LOVE! How do I love? FORGIVE! Forgive by loving your neighbour as yourself, and love by forgiving your neighbour as God has forgiven you. You cannot hold the hand of God, and reject the hand of your brethren. Why wouldn’t a Christian want to treat others in the exact same way God has treated them, unless, of course, they were never a true Christian to begin with?