LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 8)

Dear Christian husband who thinks he has forgiven his wife and yet has left her, you have not forgiven as you are forgiven. Dear Christian wife who thinks she has forgiven her husband and yet has left him and established a new life for herself independent of him, you have not forgiven as you are forgiven. Many women justify separating from their husband, and maintaining their new found ‘single life’, by not marrying again (see 1 Cor. 7:10,11), thinking this makes their unforgiveness somehow justifiable, even Biblical. Nothing could be further from the truth. The idea is to love and forgive, rejoice together in God. What is missed in this Scripture passage is that it is a COMMAND of God that the wife NOT leave her husband: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let NOT the wife depart from her husband” (1 Cor. 7:10 cf. v.11). As distrust of God's command leads to a disregard of it (see Gen. 3:6), so the longing for a false independence excites a desire for the seeming good that has been prohibited; and this desire is fostered by the senses, until it brings forth sin.” “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:22-25). When love and forgiveness are paramount, no marriage is beyond repair. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:18,19). When a wife is submitted unto her husband she forgives her husband. When a husband loves his wife and refuses to be bitter against her, he forgives his wife. Ladies, when you “…put off…anger, wrath, malice…” (Col. 3:8), you will submit to your husband and forgive him all his sins against you. Gentlemen, when you “…put off…anger, wrath, malice…”  (Col. 3:8), you will love your wife, you will not be bitter against her because you will have forgiven her all her sins against you. No Christian marriage is irreconcilable. There is no such thing as irreconcilable differences in a marriage that runs on the principle of love and forgiveness. When both husband and wife make love and forgiveness priorities in their life because of God, because they love God that much — what’s impossible! When love and forgiveness are at the forefront of your life no relationship is beyond repair. When God is predominant and preeminent in one’s life every Christian marriage will function as it should. When God’s love for you is ignored, your love for God is ignored and love for one’s spouse will be ignored and a selfish love of oneself will dominate. It will fester inside you and affect the way you think. Marriage is unto death. Marriage is a life-long commitment under God and must be nurtured not ignored. No marriage can continue unto death without the essential ingredients of love and forgiveness. When one, or both parties, stop loving and caring, of course it is going to appear that the marriage is dead. But marriages do not end when one spouse leaves the other, they enter a new phase, but they never end, and so, therefore, all responsibilities that come with marriage remain very much alive, and at the top of that list is love and forgiveness. Marital responsibilities have not ceased, they are just sinfully being ignored.

 

Dear Christian, a married couple should be on the same side, the same page, and every Christian is part of the Church of God. We are one body, the body of Christ, and we are all on the side of God so there is no reason why we should not be loving and forgiving one another as our God loves and has forgiven us. We should stop allowing ourselves to be beaten up and bullied by our bitterness and pride and the deceptive ways of Satan. Perhaps you did not intend on a prolonged period of separation and unforgiveness. The only way to end a period of unforgiveness is to forgive. You cannot flee your marriage and think it is over simply because of the absence of feelings which have been abused by a combination of  sins, an unwillingness to forgive and a selfish attitude toward your sinful spouse. A marriage continues whether the two people involved are with each other or not. Marriage ends only when one party dies. Not even adultery should be allowed to end a marriage. Love and forgiveness must always prevail if you are to truly live the Christian life. True love is unto death, and allows nothing to stand in its way. A Christian marriage should never end for any other reason but death. Unforgiveness does not come from love, it is the enemy of love, and, therefore, the enemy of God and the enemy of YOU! Unforgiveness does not feed on love, but bitterness, hatred, resentment, and its favorite meal—self-love! Get serious about your love for God, get serious about your Christian life: love and forgive your husband, love and forgive your wife. Love and forgive the Biblical way, the only way that pleases God and brings glory to Him and you will never ever regret it. People say, ‘It’s not as easy as all that’. YES IT IS, FOR LOVE AND FORGIVENESS CONQUER ALL!! Love “ENDURETH ALL THINGS”, love “NEVER FAILETH” (1 Cor. 13:7,8). No malevolent force in this universe or any other can stop you from loving and forgiving, without your consent.

 

One lady has commented about the difficulties she has had to confront in her marriage: “In all marriages, partners hurt each other. Some hurts inflict deep wounds and heartache that you think you will never recover from. Other hurts are those daily attacks and insults that stockpile and end up eroding your sense of emotional safety and trust and force partners to put up protective barriers or strike back.” The idea of marriage is to communicate. Rather than avoiding things done, or said, by your spouse that you know should be brought out into the open and gently and lovingly discussed, any sins in a marriage should be lovingly pointed out and talked about in order to help your spouse and not condemn them. How many marriages would have been saved if only the two parties involved talked things out rather than merely hoping they would somehow go away, or giving in to bitterness. The lady continues: “My husband and I have made some serious mistakes in our marriage so I know what I’m talking about. I suppose that’s why I’m grateful for forgiveness. To give and receive forgiveness is the highest act of love. The art of forgiveness allows the offending partner to be pardoned, absolved and set free without punishment. In marriage ‘punishment’ usually takes the form of recrimination, sniping and hurling reminders of the past offence during an argument. To extend forgiveness is to give up this form of torment. But there are rewards for the forgiver too. Forgiveness allows the hurt partner to be freed from carrying the pain, anger and bitterness and obsessing, which is debilitating and soul-destroying. We make a conscious decision to forgive and it doesn’t mean the pain evaporates instantly. If the hurt is deep, forgiveness is just the beginning of a healing process. Just as physical injuries take time to heal, so do emotional injuries. The desensitising of the wound can take months or years. I know a couple in their 60s who survived his adultery. It took two years for the wife to recover from the trauma of feeling her whole world had collapsed. However, now they travel Australia in their retirement, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes, cherishing each other. Time itself does not perform the healing. A passage of time allows the mind to process the trauma and move through shock and disbelief, grief, rage, insecurity, guilt, shame and blame. People who don’t heal traumatic hurts through forgiveness can carry festering wounds for a lifetime. There’s another impulse, which resides in the human psyche; the desire for revenge, to hit back at the person who has hurt you. Victims of crime and victims of infidelity in marriage often experience violent revenge fantasies.” If you have not forgiven you are guilty of the sinful act of revenge. “Jesus gave a radical teaching on retaliation, which goes completely against our base impulse, when He preached turning the other cheek and refusing to retaliate when hurt. Jesus taught that forgiveness is an on-going process. He instructed us to forgive repeatedly, 70 times seven. You can take this to mean forgiving the same offence over and over, which is necessary in the case of a traumatic violation. It also means forgiving the multitude of offences that come our way every day, from family members, friends, colleagues and strangers. As we know, Jesus was big on forgiveness. It was His core teaching. He gave the great gift of forgiveness and when we receive divine forgiveness for ourselves, forgiving others becomes mandatory. If we are walking in God’s grace, forgiveness flows from a spirit of humility and awareness of our own failings. If you have been deeply hurt by your wife or husband, the one person you trusted with your heart, forgiveness will be the most challenging gift you’ll ever give. But the rewards are great. Forgiveness is the key to emotional healing and the restoration of trust, love and happiness.” If you are not emotionally healed, if you do not trust your spouse, if you do not love them and are not happy, you have not forgiven as you ought.

 

The Christian is to always be tenderhearted. Christians are not to be hard-hearted, but tender of heart, compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, merciful and loving, always ready and willing to fully forgive and eagerly act in love toward those that need their forgiveness. No one deserves forgiveness, just as every Christian did not deserve to be forgiven by God. God’s forgiving His people is based on His love and grace toward them, and their love and forgiveness should be based on nothing different. Love and grace come free of charge from God to His people, so why would any Christian willingly refuse to love and forgive others in the same way. Whatever is hindering you from forgiving as you are forgiven, you can be assured that the cause originates from no one else but you, and from nowhere else but your heart. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mk. 7:21-23). A person’s sin and repentance is their business, forgiveness is YOUR business! Someone else’s sin against you is their responsibility, forgiveness is YOUR responsibility! Your obligation is not to sin in return but to love in return by forgiving in full. The Christian is not to condemn, but forgive. Christians love God because He loved them first, and this is the exact same motivation for every believer to love and forgive everyone who has sinned against them. We love God because He loved us first, we forgive others because God has first forgiven us. Forgiving others is loving God. Godly love and forgiveness have no pride. If you are going to play around with pride, stroke your ego and make excuses for yourself to justify not loving and forgiving everything done or said by everyone who has ever sinned against you, then you really cannot be serious about living in accord with what you claim to be. “…he that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 Jn. 4:14). He that loves not his brother forgives not his brother, and abides in death.  Love and forgiveness have many enemies, many things that seek to come against them in the human psyche and the human heart, but all these can and must be shot down, and the only way to do that is to be thankful to God for His grace, and being obedient to God with your life by graciously loving and forgiving everyone who has ever caused you any grief.

 

Christians are to forgive as they have been forgiven. That is the only acceptable standard of forgiveness which God has set, and, therefore, the only way to rightly, Biblically forgive. Any ‘forgiveness’ which fails to reach this level of forgiveness, and you are only fooling yourself into believing you have actually, properly, Biblically forgiven. This principle, or standard, of forgiveness is clearly taught in the parable of the king and his servant in Matthew 18. If you are going to forgive, you must forgive God’s way, for no other way qualifies as true forgiveness. If your definition of forgiveness does not measure up to God’s standard, then you have no forgiveness at all. What you have is a sinful perversion of forgiveness which will only satisfy you, not God. If you have not forgiven God’s way you simply have not forgiven. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, FORGIVING one another, EVEN AS GOD for Christ's sake hath forgiven you…But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Eph. 4:32; Matt. 6:15 cf. Mk. 11:25,26; Lk. 6:37; Col. 2:13). “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). He who does not love will not forgive. Forgiveness is about forgiving as God forgives. Forgiveness is not optional for the Christian, it is obligatory, it is how he must live his life, it is how he wants to live his life, it is how he does live his life. The forgiven are compelled to forgive by the very fact they are forgiven. If you are born again you are a Christian, if you are a Christian you are forgiven eternally and a forgiver for life. Forgiveness is not something for you to think about or debate in your mind or with others, wondering whether you should or should not forgive, it is something which you must do, it is something you will do. If you are truly forgiven you must and will eagerly forgive others. If the love of God is ruling your life, you will forgive others. Forgiveness comes from love. If you really do know the true and only God Who is love, then you will love in like fashion. The benefits of loving one’s neighbor as oneself and forgiving one’s neighbor as one has been forgiven are endless for both he who forgives and the one who is properly forgiven.

 

If you are a Christian LOVE MUST PREVAIL. Love must be paramount in your life, and if so, then forgiveness will come easy. If God is your life, then forgiveness will come easy. Our attitude toward those who sin against us must be a loving, compassionate and forgiving one. How has the Christian been forgiven? FULLY AND FREELY! How is the Christian to forgive? FULLY AND FREELY! Love as you are loved by God, forgive as you are forgiven by God. Why would you not want to do that? Why would you not want to do what God does? Why would you not want to treat others as God treats you? A ‘forgiveness’ that does not fully and unconditionally forgive is faker than fiction. Conditional forgiveness is corrupted forgiveness. Anyone who will not forgive fully and unconditionally has no business calling themselves Christian. Anyone who is comfortable in living an unforgiving lifestyle is not a Christian. A Christian is a person who is loved by God, and is a lover of God’s people, his brethren. You cannot love without forgiveness. Love others the way God loves you. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. Surely as a Christian you are most willing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Surely as a Christian you are most willing to do unto others as God has done unto you. Surely as a Christian you would always seek to treat others as God has treated you? If this be the case, then surely there could be nothing standing in the way of your treating others the way God has treated you. Love and forgive God’s way, for there is no other way to properly love and forgive than the way God loves and forgives His people. God is our Template—love as He loves, forgive as He forgives. Be merciful and compassionate, loving and forgiving all who sin against you. Love and forgiveness should be a constant theme running throughout the Christian’s life. To be a Christian is to always be pro-forgiveness. If God has loved and forgiven your brethren then why are you not loving them and forgiving them in the exact same way? Why do you, via unforgiveness, condemn your brother whom God has forgiven and does not condemn at all? Why do you punish your brethren whom God does not condemn? There are no levels, or conditions, to God’s forgiveness. No restraint whatsoever. Real forgiveness is only and always full and free and most assuredly without any condition or strings attached. Forgiveness makes way for how one is to live their life in love. Forgiveness is living your life in love. Our love for God should manifest itself by way of our forgiveness toward others. If you are truly thankful for God’s forgiveness, then your forgiveness of others will manifest itself in the exact same way. This is the reality of the Christian life. Anything which comes short of this is not Christian, but anti-Christian.

 

God never again mentions the sins of His children, or makes any reference to them, which they had committed against Him once He has forgiven them. God has cast their sins behind Him, “…Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (Isa. 38:17 cf. Psa. 103:12; Acts 22:19-21). God has put the sins of His people behind Him so that He sees them no more, He recollects them no more, for He wills to no longer have any consciousness of them at all forever. THAT IS LOVE! And forgiveness is the outward expression of love. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12 cf. Heb. 10:17). This is the essence of what forgiveness is, it is to cast the sins of those who have sinned against you behind you. It is to have a will that is resolute in dismissing any further thought concerning  a person’s sin against you, and a determination to act in no other way toward that person but with loving forgiveness. To cast another’s sins against you behind your back is to be merciful in the face of unrighteousness, it is to remember iniquities and sins no more. It is to walk on in your life, ensuring your love is unimpeded by the sins of others. The sins of others will never become stumbling blocks in your life if you cast those sins behind you, and walk on in love and forgiveness. That which is behind you is in the past. The sins have been committed, forgiveness has dealt with them and closed the book on them, and now only love will be prevalent in that relationship. God does not punish the ones He has forgiven, He does not withhold any blessing from them, for He treats them as if they had never sinned. So too, no Christian is to punish anyone for their sins against them by way of ostracizing them from their lives, or by reducing or restricting contact with them, or withholding their love toward them in any way, to any degree. We must transcend human emotion, and will only to love and forgive, whilst doing no harm by actively doing only good toward our neighbor. No forgiven Christian has any right to exclude anyone, in any way from the love of God which has been shed abroad in their hearts. To not forgive is to deny someone FULL ACCESS to the love of God which has been shed abroad in the heart of every Christian. The Christian is to never withhold forgiveness from anyone. There are no circumstances under which unforgiveness is permitted in a Christian’s life, and, therefore, unforgiveness is never justifiable, and so, always sin. No sin committed against us is beyond the reach of the love and forgiveness each Christian has been blessed with by God.

 

There have been non-Christians, non-religious parents of children who have been murdered in the most vicious of ways that have forgiven their killers. And yet there are Christians who will not forgive their repentant brethren, or even husbands and wives for relatively minor sins. The Christian is to forgive, AND forget, and then continue on in the relationship AS IF THE SIN HAD NEVER OCCURRED. This is not a choice, dear fellow believer, IT IS YOUR OBLIGATION! It is the life you have been chosen for, by God. You cannot be a Christian if you will not love and forgive your neighbour as you are loved and forgiven by God. Unconditional love and forgiveness is not some pie in the sky notion that can only exist in theory, but is the reality every Christian must face as not only possible, but obligatory in one’s life. Cast the sins of those who have sinned against you, behind you and do not ever look back at them again lest your heart turn to stone. Look forward in love: love to God and love toward your fellow believer. If you want to be a Christian THIS is THE ONLY WAY to live out the rest of your life. When your eyes are on God, you will not ever look back. You must be committed to loving and forgiving, not only your brethren and family members, but your neighbour and your enemy. Love and forgive every single person 100% no matter who they are or what they have done to you. The important thing is not who they are or what they have done, but that you forgive them 100%. Do not allow yourself to be defiled and defeated by the actions of others, but overcome them all with love and forgiveness. Do not allow your identity to be defined by the sins of others against you, but by the love of God for you. Don’t allow the sins of others to break you down, but rise above the sins committed against you on the wings of love and forgiveness. This is not some poetic nonsense, it’s what you are supposed to do. It is the Christian’s command. Love and forgiveness WILL get you over whatever is thrown at you. If you are a Christian who knows they have been unforgiving toward others, get your real identity back by loving and forgiving others as you are loved and forgiven by God. Being forgiven by God comes with a command to forgive others. Forgiveness is a priority for the Christian, not something he can afford to neglect.

 

True forgiveness is a conscious decision, a willful and fully fledged determination to never retaliate, or never act in any retributive way to any degree, against those who have sinned against us, to never again raise the issue of what was done, or said, with the other person, anyone else, or even in one’s own mind. “We have never truly forgiven as long as we keep recreating the scene of our humiliation or persist in retelling the words that stabbed us. If you have forgiven someone then why continue to dredge up the past?” If you have forgiven someone, then why continue to act in the present according to their actions or words from the past? Leave the past out by letting forgiveness in. Love and forgiveness deal with things. Love and forgiveness put an end to the attempted takeover by, and adverse influence of, other people’s sins in our lives. The Christian does not run on hate and bitterness, but on love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness puts a permanent end to the issue, a period point to every sin committed against us. Love and forgiveness restore peace. The saga and negativity of other people’s sins committed against you only ends when your forgiveness of them begins. The account of every person who has ever sinned against you should be indelibly stamped LOVED AND FORGIVEN!! The Christian is to have nothing whatsoever to do with sin, in thought, word, or deed, but is to love others as oneself. Forgiveness is obedience to God, and a revolution against everything the world and our fleshly desires have taught us concerning the sins of others against us. Forgiving others is loving God. ‘Forgiving’ but not forgetting is no forgiveness at all. “I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” Why, if you have forgiven someone would you not want to forget their sin? Forgiving any less than 100% is no forgiveness at all. Leaving any room for any bitterness, or twisted resentment is not forgiving your neighbor as God has forgiven you. To truly forgive is to never repay evil for evil “…but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9 cf. 1 Thess. 5:14,15). “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2: 21-23).

 

Christians are called to live a life of forgiveness and love toward all, understanding and never losing sight of the fact that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, firstly from God and then from each other. No one is any less a sinner than the one who has sinned against them. All are in need of forgiveness from God, and so, should always be willing to forgive their fellow sinner. If you expect forgiveness from God, He expects forgiveness from you toward your fellow man. The Christian is called to forgive. The governing and overriding principle of all Christian life is loving obedience to God and His Word. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:1-3). Forgiveness is not a burden to Christians, it is a delight. Christians delight themselves in loving and forgiving, for this brings glory to God. It is literally of no use to religiously set aside a rigid schedule of prayer and Bible reading, if you have not obeyed God by loving and forgiving your neighbor. “…I will have mercy, and not sacrifice…” (Matt. 12:7). Jesus said, “And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46). Sacrifice is not forgiveness, it is a pitiful and sinful attempt to score points with God on your terms while avoiding the mercy and obedience necessary to forgive others like God forgives you. Many have rehearsed their unforgiveness for so long they have hardened their hearts to the point where they do not even realize the gravity of how badly they are treating others. Sin blinds you from the truth. Sin’s influence can be so powerful it even keeps us from taking an honest look at ourselves and our actions. The sin of the unforgiving one is always far worse than any sin they refuse to forgive. In the case of long term unforgiveness, the issue is no longer what was done against you, but what you are doing to others. You can run from others and from forgiveness, but you cannot run from yourself and your responsibility to forgive. This responsibility, like your shadow, follows you everywhere. Wherever you go your unforgiveness, and your responsibility to forgive, will be right there with you. Deal with other’s sins the way God has dealt with your sin. No one is better than anyone else, and all our sins are rebellion against God. Your fellow man needs forgiveness just like you do. Love them and forgive them, for you are nothing but a sinner too.

 

The Christian must employ and deploy the love and forgiveness of God toward all others if he is serious about the Christian life. It is not enough to intend to forgive, but we must see to it that our love is transformed into effective action through forgiveness. There are no versions of Christianity, only perversions. Real Christianity is according to God’s rules, God’s commands, not your own. Christianity is not about saying how much you love God, it is demonstrating how much you love God by a life of obedience to Him and love for Him, by loving and forgiving others. Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15 cf. Jn. 14:21,23,24). Perception may be reality in the world of modern marketing, but in God’s reality—the only genuine reality there is—if your perception does not match God’s reality you are living in a fantasy world. You cannot be a follower of Christ if you do not love and forgive others the way He loves and forgives His people. Simply because you have become accustomed to a life lived in accord with your version of forgiveness, is not in any way proof that your forgiveness is real. Forgiveness is real, genuine and Biblical only when you are fully reconciled to the one you claim to have forgiven. If the relationship is not repaired and restored there is no forgiveness. True Biblical forgiveness is to seriously “…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). Forgiveness often begins with praying for the one who has sinned against you. You cannot love your enemies without forgiving your enemies; you cannot bless them that curse you without forgiving them that curse you; you cannot do good to them that hate you without forgiving them that hate you; you cannot pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you without a spirit, an attitude of forgiveness toward them that despitefully use you and persecute you. Loving and forgiving is extraordinary living. Forgiveness is a blessing to everyone involved. Happiness and joy are the fruits of love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is something to rejoice about, not anything to be embarressed  about, or hesitantly entered into. The world sees forgiveness as letting someone get away with what they have done, but the Christian knows it is what God commands. To extend mercy and compassion toward others is the blessing of God upon your life. Even if forgiveness did mean letting someone get away with sin, what would you prefer to do: let someone get away with something, or sin against them and against God by not forgiving them, by retaliating against them and doing them evil. Paul exhibits the attitude of forgiveness succinctly: “…Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (1 Cor. 6:7 cf. 1 Pet. 2:19,20). “Strange as such advice would sound to heathens, who prided themselves on the passionate resentment of injuries as though it were a virtue, this had been the distinct teaching of our Lord; ‘Resist not evil’ (Matt. 5:39).” The forgiven man sees the glory of forgiveness and the inescapable principle that a man loved and forgiven by God MUST, SHOULD and DOES love and forgive all others. There is no passion to avenge a wrong committed, but only a deep desire to love and forgive as one is loved and forgiven by God. The Christian is not to reluctantly approach forgiveness but to unashamedly and fully embrace it. With unforgiveness you lose everything. With forgiveness nothing is lost but everything is gained both by the forgiver and the one forgiven.

 

Everyone needs forgiveness, even you. Everyone who needs forgiveness must be prepared to forgive. The Christian is to forgive his fellow believer, for whom Christ shed His very blood! The Christian life is all about “…having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8). Christians are, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Titus 3:2-4), everything changed. Prior to being  saved, Christians, too, were sometimes foolish and lived in malice, hateful and hating one another who, at times “prided themselves on the passionate resentment of injuries incurred as though resentment, vengefulness and unforgiveness were a virtue”. But after the kindness and love of God the Saviour appeared we are no longer like that. We refuse to be like that anymore. We now recognize that pride, resentment, vengefulness and unforgiveness are not virtues at all, but they are sin. The Christian should never speak evil of any man. Christians are to be gentle and meek. This does not mean we should be weak little weeds with an effeminate approach to life, but gentle and humble in our dealings with others, forgiving rather than hating, loving rather than being malicious. “Meekness is not weakness, it is strength under control.” Understanding that the one who has sinned against you is just as broken as you are, just as much a sinner as you are, just as imperfect as you are and just as much in need of forgiveness as you are, will lead you to forgive them as God forgives you. Both of you need forgiveness from God, so go ahead and forgive one another and walk together in peace and harmony.

 

The point behind the parable of the king and the servant is that the forgiven MUST forgive, and that there are severe consequences for those who do not forgive. After being informed concerning the forgiven servant’s unforgiveness, “…his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt. 18:32-35). The servant should have had compassion as the king had compassion, and Christians should be “…forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven…” them. It is expected of the forgiven to always forgive their fellow man. With forgiveness comes the responsibility to forgive. Forgiveness is not a burden, it is an emancipator that frees us from the bondage to sin against those who have sinned against us. You cannot expect to be forgiven and then not forgive your brethren in the exact same manner in which you seek to be forgiven. Don’t ever fall for the lie that you cannot forgive that person, or that sin. Forgiveness of sin awaits only your will to love. The pain which the sin of another has caused you can never exceed the urgency for you to forgive it. The Christian who insists on loving and forgiving is more than adequately armed to combat the sins of others against him. We fight evil with good, and confront sin with love. The sins of others are like BB guns compared to the Gustav cannons of love and forgiveness. Another’s sin can never take away your power to forgive, only you can. Only you can diminish love’s influence in your life. What justification could you possibly turn to for not forgiving anyone the way God has forgiven you? What kind of a Christian is it who comfortably lives a lifestyle of unforgiveness whilst gratefully enjoying the fact he is forgiven by God? Unforgiveness should not be tolerated, no, not for a second. Unforgiveness should never be treated as a welcomed friend, but rather an unwanted stranger. UNFORGIVENESS IS AN OUTRAGE! Unforgiveness is violence against love. How dare any Christian even momentarily entertain the thought of not forgiving relative trifles when they have been forgiven the gravest of all injustices: having sinned against the Most High and Holy God.

 

Of course one of the greatest impediments to unconditional forgiveness is the fact we are all human, sinful humans. We all begin with the same handicap. We all carry the sin seed in hearts that are highly deceptive and desperately wicked (see Jer. 17:9). However, we should never use such facts as excuses for our unforgiveness. Just like any sin, unforgiveness is not our friend, it is our enemy. Sometimes, thoughts do come to our minds, reminding us of the past, and as we allow painful moments from our past to resurface we feel the hurt creeping back in, and start to become angry again at, and feel resentment toward, those who have harmed us. Too many people still feel outrage at the other man’s sin, instead of directing that outrage at their unforgiveness of it. Reflexively we try to block that person out of our minds, but it is not the person that should be barricaded from our lives, but only their sin. The person should be loved, and their sin by-passed by love and forgiveness. Forgive the sin and love the sinner. Anything less than this is repaying evil for evil, something which is strictly forbidden in Scripture, “Recompense to no man evil for evil…Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17,21). And be under no illusion: unforgiveness IS pure evil! It is not enough to not recompense a man evil for evil with our words and actions, but we must see to it that we recompense no man evil for evil even in our minds. Sin begins with thought. If we have been told to overcome evil with good, then clearly evil can be overcome only by good. Again, fighting fire with fire will only make for a bigger fire. Fight fire with water and overcome evil with good. Overcome sin with love and forgiveness. Evil can only be overcome with good. Recompensing evil for evil leaves you in danger of becoming overcome by evil. If you do not overcome evil with good, then evil will overcome you. Overcome unforgiveness with love. Overcome vengeance with forgiveness; overcome hate with love. People ask, ‘How do I do that?’ Put it into action—DO IT! It’s not rocket science! How does one do anything other than by doing it! But you have to want to. There is no point in ‘wanting to’ become a Christian, or even calling yourself a Christian, if your prime objective in life is not to please and glorify God by loving and forgiving your fellow man unconditionally! Love and forgiveness are more powerful than hate and vengeance, so make them a reality in your life and actually put them into practice, and don’t just settle for empty words. What good is saying you forgive, when your actions prove otherwise? What good is saying that you love, when you provide no evidence of your love. Your forgiveness must satisfy God not you, and the only way to do this is forgive God’s way—without condition and without any retribution. Whilst we can do nothing to stop evil, vengeful thoughts knocking on the door of our mind, we can most assuredly choose not to let them in. Unforgiveness is a temptation, and like all temptations to sin, it must be and can be resisted by submitting oneself to God and obeying Him from the heart in love. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from thee” (Jas. 4:7). We can choose not to allow ourselves to dwell on past sin. We can choose to literally turn a blind eye to all the injustices and hurts we have experienced, and to rejoice in the love, forgiveness and way of peace we have all been called to. To love is to be free—to hate is to be a slave. We can choose to rejoice not only in God’s forgiveness of our sins, but also in God’s forgiveness of the sins committed against us by fellow believers, and for His grace in us that leads us away from condemning others to loving and forgiving others. To forgive in any less a way than how we have been forgiven by God, is a despicable act which can only come from an evil heart motivated by pride, bitterness, and a spirit of vengeance.

 

Conditional forgiveness is worse than no forgiveness at all, for it gives us a false sense of security that we are such nice loving people, etc. God does not see us the way we see ourselves. “…all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Conditional forgiveness is trying to run things your way, instead of living life God’s way. Fight conditional forgiveness with love. True love will cause all conditions to dissipate. Many Christians are still playing with the Christian life. Many are very serious about doctrine, prayer and teaching the Gospel to others, but when it comes to loving one’s neighbor as themselves, and forgiving as they have been forgiven, suddenly such things are taken lightly and do not make their list of imperatives, but are rather filed under options. People say, ‘I have forgiven that person enough. I don’t bother them, in fact, I stay away from them so I am not sinning against them’. My friend, staying away from a brother or sister in Christ IS sinning against them. What you call forgiveness is nothing but a convenient, polite way, of saying to God ‘I’m going to do this my way, I am going to forgive my way’. This is the exact opposite of how a Christian is to live their life. The idea is to obey God’s rules, not comply with your own rules that oppose His. The Christian is commanded to love and forgive. These things are not optional, but compulsory. To be a Christian is to live life loving our neighbor as ourselves. To be a Christian is to live life always forgiving others as we have been forgiven by God. Never mind excuses like, ‘Oh but you don’t know what they did to me’. Whatever you might think, NOTHING done to you is unforgiveable! No sin committed against you can, of itself, tip the scales in favor of unforgiveness. The only thing that does tip the scales in favor of unforgiveness is your will. When it comes to forgiveness it does not matter what was done to you, but what you do now! Others say, ‘But you don’t understand what they did to me’. No, you don’t understand love and forgiveness! Any resistance to the reality that you MUST love, that you MUST forgive, shows that you just plain do not want to love and forgive, and if you don’t want to love and forgive it may just be that you do not belong with the God and His people who do love and forgive unconditionally.

 

The only thing one can do with a command is either obey it, or disobey it. To obey it is to fully obey it. To disobey it is to neglect to obey it fully. To forgive is to be a follower of God, it is to live like Him, to love like He loves, and to forgive as He forgives: without any constraint or reservation. Still others who have been sinned against go even further claiming, ‘They ruined my life!’. The only person who can ruin your life is YOU! And the one sure way of ruining your life is harboring a sinful attitude toward others. If the only person who can ruin your life is you, then it is patently obvious that no one else has the power to do so. The reality of the situation is it is only your sin, not the sins of others, which can destroy you, but only if you allow it to. Your unforgiveness is what lies behind your misery, and will expedite your ruination, not what was done to you or the person who did it. “…it is you, and only you, who with your negative unforgiving attitude, can keep on damaging and ruining your entire life on a continual basis…even the most toxic things and events can act as our stimulants toward strength.” Each individual should be their own best friend, but often times we become our own worst enemy when we engage in the sin of unforgiveness. Stop seeing yourself as the victim, and start being the victor over sin through love and forgiveness. It’s all in the attitude. When you are given a lemon in life, turn it into lemonade by love and forgiveness. Don’t give other people and their sins against you a chance to negatively affect your life. Respond with love and forgiveness and you will live a victorious, unconquerable life. Those who seriously love and forgive others get on with their lives, they do not live in the past, for the love of God dwells in their hearts. Sin is ruination. Committing sin, and the unforgiveness of sin is nothing but a fast track to misery. There are no checkpoints for God’s love and forgiveness of His people, so too, the Christian is to permit NOTHING to inhibit or hinder their love toward, and forgiveness of all others.

 

If God forgives us there is no justifiable reason why we should not forgive others. Moreover, if God has forgiven us, there is no valid reason why we should not want to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God. I mean, do you have the love of God in you or what! If you do, then you should want to love and forgive and not let anything stand in your way. Writing to believers, the apostle Paul stated: “…be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Christians are not only to forgive their enemies, but principally their brethren. The sad truth is that many Christians do not even forgive their fellow believers, much less their enemies, however, at times they find it easier to forgive an enemy than a brother. Moreover, they are indifferent toward them, and some even go on in their lives acting as if they did not even exist. My friends, this is not what being a Christian is all about. Cruelty and heartlessness do not wear well on a Christian. Being discompassionate and unforgiving are not part of the Christian’s armour. These are things synonymous with the ungodly, the unsaved, the corrupt and the wicked. Why would a Christian stoop to such unsavory and distasteful strategies, rather than love and forgiveness? You are not impressing God one iota by your personal sense of justice toward others. “For the wrath of man worketh not the Righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). We are not to wipe people from our lives and discard them as so much rubbish, but we are to be sensitive to the fact people require our forgiveness just as we require forgiveness from God, and that Christians are under a mandate to always forgive. Forgiveness is representing the love of God toward others. Forgiving is being an ambassador of God’s love. God wants us to be forgiving creatures, loving creatures toward all—those inside the Church and those without. Being a Christian is being kind to those who have hurt you, being tender hearted and not hard-hearted.

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