The Freedom of Forgiveness

The Freedom of Forgiveness

Chapter 3 has to do with the theme of living out lives of practical holiness and the issue of forgiveness. We often do not connect our willingness to forgive to the pursuit of a holy life, but it is impossible to live a holy life and a godly life apart from the practice of forgiving those who hurt us, grieve us, and sin against us.

On a Monday morning, in early October of this year, Charles Roberts, IV, stepped out of a borrowed pick-up truck and he entered into a one-room, Amish school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He carried with him a shot gun, a semi-automatic pistol, a rifle, a stun gun, two knives, and six hundred rounds of ammunition. There were twenty-six students in the school that day. Roberts let sixteen students go, but he kept ten girls ranging in ages six to thirteen. He lined up the girls against the chalkboard in front of the school room. After a short standoff with the authorities, Roberts opened fire on all ten, innocent, sweet little girls before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.

Naomi Ebersol, age 7, Lena Miller, age 7, Mary Miller, age 8, Anna Stoltzfus, age 12, and Marian Fisher, age 13 all died from their wounds. Five others were critically injured. The media covering this gruesome act first focused on the evil perpetrated inside that school house that day. But, quickly the media’s attention was rooted on something else; something they witnessed in wonder which was happening outside the school house that day. CBS reported it this way, “In just about any other community a deadly school shooting would have brought demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman’s family, or would have threatened to sue, but that is not the Amish way. As they struggle with the slayings of the five children in the one-room school house, the Amish in Lancaster County are turning the ‘other cheek’, urging forgiveness of the killer and quietly defecting what comes their way as ‘God’s will’.

“One Michigan researcher said, ‘They know their children are going to Heaven. They know their children are innocent. They know they will join them in death. The hurt is very great but they do not balance the hurt with hate.’

“The Amish, also having reached out to the family of the gunman, Charles Roberts, IV, who committed suicide during the attack, ‘The Amish neighbor came that very night, around nine o’clock in the evening, and offered forgiveness to the family,’ said a spokesman for the Roberts’ family.

“Daniel Esch, a fifty-seven year old Amish artist and woodworker, whose three grand-nephews were inside the school during the attack, said, “I hope they (the Roberts family) stays around here. They will have a lot of friends and a lot of support.

NBC interviewed the grandfather of two of the girls who were killed in this attack. The reporter asked, “Is there anger towards the gunman’s family?” “No.” “Have you forgiven?” “In my heart, yes.” “How is that possible?” “Through God’s help,” he said.

Midwife, Rita Rhodes, was present for the birth of two of the five girls who were killed. She, also, spoke of forgiving the gunman. She said, “If you know Jesus in your heart, and He has forgiven you, how could you not forgive other people?”

Forgiveness is never easy. Our flesh resists forgiving those who wrong us, but Rita Rhodes is exactly right! If we know Jesus in our hearts and He has forgiven us, how can we not forgive other people, so we take up this topic of forgiveness in this study. There are four questions we seek to answer concerning this subject of forgiveness. The first question we will take up is, “Who should forgive? Who is called by God to forgive?” The second question is, “What does it mean to forgive? The third question is, “Why should I forgive?” The fourth question is, “How can I forgive?”

Who should forgive? In Verse 13, we read,

13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The command is clearly given: we are called to forgive even as the Lord has forgiven us, but to whom is this commandment addressed? For that answer we turn to Verse 12,

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Who is called to forgive? It is those who have been forgiven by God. It is interesting there are three descriptions given to us to describe that community and us as Christians. Paul says, first, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people…” Ephesians 1:4, tells us, we are chosen by God, before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of our own merit, on the basis of our own goodness, on the basis of our intelligence, on the basis hard work, on the basis of our efforts, or on the basis of our good looks, but we are chosen freely by God on the basis of His good pleasure and His grace. It is to us, as people who are chosen by God and set apart by God to be the recipients of His grace, God calls us to forgive.

Also, Paul says of us, these people whom God has chosen are holy. That is to say, there is a change inside of us, not only in our position before God as God’s chosen people, but there is a transformation which takes place and we are set apart by God to live a new kind of life. There is now, because of this work of God inside of our heart, a possibility to be free of sin’s corruption and to live a life which reflects the character of God, His person, and His glory. He says, “to you who are chosen, holy, and set apart by me I call you to forgive.”

The third description Paul gives us of God’s people is “those who are dearly loved”. That is to say, once we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted into God’s family and we are so loved by God we no longer speak of God in terms of great distance but in terms of great relational proximity and closeness, so we call God Himself, “our Father”. In fact, Romans will tell us our spirit now cries out to God saying, “Abba, Daddy”.

We know nothing separates us now from God’s love and nothing can separate us now from God’s love, as it is found in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, in Romans will say,

37 …we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Before God gives us this command to forgive one another, He reminds us who we are in Jesus. He tells us we are “chosen, holy, dearly loved, accepted, blessed, secure, and we are forever prized and declared precious” by the God of Eternity, the God who created us.

We grant forgiveness to others, knowing we give out of a whole tank, a healthy soul, and a wealthy treasury. That is the reason why God calls us to forgive, because we are now in a position to be able to give such forgiveness. If a friend asks you to pay a bill for them because they do not have the money to pay this debt, you will ask two questions before you agree to it. First, you will ask, “How much is your bill?” Then you will ask yourself, “Can I afford to pay it?” If the bill, for instance, is $10,000, and your friend comes and asks you if you will pay that debt for them, and you only have $200 in your bank account, what are you going to say? You will say, “I am sorry. I cannot pay the debt.”

But, let’s imagine the debt is $10,000, still a large sum, but you have $1,000,000,000 in your bank account. I don’t know if any of you have such an account, but if you did, wouldn’t you say, “$10,000 is nothing to me. I have $1,000,000,000 sitting in the bank just resting there. I make that much in interest every few days. $10,000, of course I will pay the debt.” You pay the debt because you have a rich treasury.

God comes to you and He says, “Forgive one another”, and we ask ourselves the question, “Can I afford to pay such a debt?” and if we see ourselves as spiritual and emotional paupers when we look into our spiritual and emotional bank and we say, “I am not sure I can afford and pay it. I am not sure I can release that much of my resources toward this other person.”

If we look inside of us and we realize we are God’s chosen people, we are set apart by God, and we are dearly loved by Him, all the riches Jesus Christ has given to us and which are found in us, now His inheritance is ours. We say, “Of course, I can pay that debt because God has given me a richness out of which, when I pay that debt, it is as though there is nothing lost at all, but it is multiplied back in great measure.”

Friends, it is so important for us to know and embrace who we are in Jesus Christ, for if we believe we are emotional and spiritual paupers we will act like emotional and spiritual paupers. We will become stingy with our emotional and spiritual resources, but if we know we are wealthy beyond measure then we will joyfully give to others out of our abundance.

Who is called to forgive? I tell you, it is we who are chosen by God in His mercy and in His grace. It is we who are set apart, called to be holy. It is we who are dearly loved by God. It is, as you enjoy these three blessings you will find it easy to live out the commandment to forgive. God commandments are never burdensome, not if we know who we are in Jesus.

The second question we want to address is: what does it mean to forgive? The dictionary definition of forgive is this: to give up resent or claim to requital for; to grant relief for payment of a debt. Forgiveness, according to the dictionary, is the releasing of a person who has wronged us from the consequences of their sin that we could justly demand. Forgiveness means we refuse to attach the guilt of sin to the person who committed the sin, but rather to relieve them of that guilt, inasmuch as we are concerned.

If we look at these definitions, we understand dictionary definitions do not make the meaning of forgiveness as clear as an example does. That is why, all through Scripture, God gives us examples, and the greatest example is mentioned in Verse 13,

13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

If you wish to know what forgiveness is, I urge you to fix your eyes upon Jesus and consider the nature of His forgiveness of you. We look to Jesus first, of course, as sinners who need a Savior. We do not, first and foremost, need an example because we could not follow the example, but we need, first and foremost, a Savior who, when we look to Him and embrace Him by faith, we find all He has done for us and accomplished for us is now received as a blessing to us. That is the Gospel message; come and believe in Jesus Christ and you will be given the free gift of eternal life and you will be forgiven of your sins.

Here we find, not only as sinners do we need a Savior, as saints who are chosen by God, set apart by God, and dearly loved by God we do need Jesus as our example, and what an example His is. He is perfect, lovely, and beautiful in every way.

We look to Jesus to discover what forgiveness really means and what we are called to do for others. As I consider Jesus’ forgiveness of myself, four words come to mind which describe this forgiveness. The first word is “costly”. Jesus paid the debt we owe on the cross. If Jesus had not come to suffer, He could not have offered His forgiveness, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. If Jesus Himself is to forgive us, He has to take on a great cost and He has to suffer in our place.

He took upon Himself, when He died upon the cross, the consequences, the condemnation, and the judgment of my guilt, of my shame, and of my sin so I could be forever free of those consequences and free of the condemnation of that guilt. Jesus died in agony to give us the gift of forgiveness, so we are called to forgive just as Christ has forgiven us.

Indeed, when we forgive another person it is always costly. There are some sins committed against us which bring more suffering and require more of a price in order to forgive, but every sin which comes against us hurts and stings. Every sin requires a willingness to pay the price for another’s freedom.

Forgiveness requires I willingly absorb the painful consequences of another person’s sin so I can release that person from the consequences I would otherwise justly demand. If we are pursuing justice, forgiveness will never come, but it is mercy and grace we say, “I am willing to receive all the just penalty and consequence of that person’s sin and embrace those consequences, absorb them into myself, and hold onto them so that person hands will be free and they will not have to hold onto the consequences I could rightly demand of them”. Such is the nature of forgiveness

Our forgiveness of others does not always mean God releases them from their consequences. They have to deal between them and God, but it does mean God frees us up from the anger, resentment, bitterness, and malice which would otherwise grab hold of our soul.

When we come to understand forgiveness is always costly, it helps us to discern how we might approach another when we need forgiveness. It is interesting the text says, “Forgive one another”. The implication is there will be times when we need to forgive and there will be times when we need to be forgiven.

How might we approach one we have wronged? It is important for us to understand what we are asking of them, because it shapes the manner in which we approach. When we ask another to forgive us, remember we are asking from them a very expensive and costly gift. We are asking them to suffer for us so we do not have to suffer. When we come to them it is important we come humbly and not demanding. We cannot cross our arms and say, “I said I was sorry. What is your problem now?” Such an attitude and such a heart reflect we do not understand what we are asking at all. Instead, it is important for us to confess our sin to one another and say, “Friend, I wronged you and sinned against you by ___________” – what ever the sin might be.

But, then it is important for us to ask the request for the gift. Such a gift should never be demanded. If the man I mentioned in the story before, the friend who needed $10,000, had come to you and said, “Give me $10,000!” or would he come to you a bit more humbly, realizing he is asking for a very large gift, and say, “Would you pay my debt for me?”

When someone comes to another, we do not say, “Forgive me,” as if we are commanding the person to do something for us and now they are obligated to do so because we told them to do so. No, we come to them and say, “Friend, will you forgive me? Will you give me the gift so I can be free?”

Forgiveness is always costly. This is why C.S. Lewis says, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have something to forgive.” How many of us are in favor of forgiveness? All of us would raise our hands, but the moment we have something to forgive, the moment we are stung, the moment we are hurt, and the moment that knife is shoved into our gut and twisted by the other person’s sin, now we realize it is a difficult thing.

The second word which comes to mind is complete. Jesus, when we forgive, says, “Forgive not in part, but in the whole.” All of our sin is cancelled. Jesus does not hold onto some of His anger against our sin. The wonder is, Jesus says, “I will remember your sin no more.” Jesus takes our sin in its totality and casts all of it into the ocean of His grace, never to retrieve them and never to fish them out. Our sins are completely removed; never to be mentioned against us ever again. Jesus, in His forgiveness, so thoroughly cancels our sin not a whisper of them shall ever be mentioned in the Courts of Heaven. Is that not amazing; that our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west. There is a decisiveness on God’s part never to remember our sins again, not in reference to us. Not one sin in our lives survives the fire of His forgiving heart. His forgiving heart burns up every sin completely. Not even the ashes are left.

Furthermore, not only is there a depth of forgiveness of sin, but there is a complete duration of God’s forgiveness. His forgiveness is so complete it is continual and all encompassing. Listen to what Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God forgave us long ago. He still forgives us. He does not forgive and then afterwards accuse, but His forgiveness is eternal. It is not a reprieve He gives to you, believing ones, but it is a free pardon.” Do you see the difference?

Often times we, in our forgiveness, give a reprieve, and we say, “Okay, for a short time I will try to put this aside”. This is only a reprieve and it is not a full pardon. We always hold onto that, thinking maybe someday, “I might need to use that again”. But, God’s pardon and forgiveness is not a reprieve but a full pardon underneath the King’s hand and seal which will effectually protect you from accusations and punishment.

Jesus puts our sins away forever. Such complete forgiveness, as we recognize it in our lives, does not come easy to us. Someone may say, “I want to forgive, but the hurt of the sin done against me keeps coming back to me and reminding me of what this person has done”. Have you ever struggled in such a way? I tell you, I have. It is vital for us to understand forgiveness is both a decisive act and a continuous process.

It is a decisive act. Forgiveness is a commitment of our will to completely cancel out that sin in reference to that person in our lives. When we make this decisive act, people understand we cannot wait upon our emotions to make it. The decision to forgive is a decision of our will and it happens in the place of our decision-making core. Our emotions may never come along and if we wait for them we will never forgive when we say, “Emotionally, now, I am ready to forgive”.

God calls us to make a decisive act and to make a decision in regard to what we are going to do with the sin. Either, we are going to continue to attach it to that person, or we are going to separate it from that person and embrace the hurt of our own so that person can be free. This is a decisive act and God calls us and He commands us to make it forcefully and consciously. It sounds easy until we have something to forgive.

I remember, some time ago, there was a person who had hurt me and I had decided I was not yet ready to forgive and I was not going to. That evening I stewed and the Holy Spirit kept coming after me saying, “Ritch, you need to make a decision about this,” and I said, “No, I am not going to. I will forgive them later. I don’t want to wipe them out of my life because they are too important to me, but I do not want to forgive them right now.” That night I crossed my arms and I slept with my arms crossed.

I woke up and do you know what the first thought was? It was the Holy Spirit saying, “Ritch, you need to forgive this person.” Guess what I did? I took a shower with my arms crossed. I got dressed with my arms crossed. I had an early morning breakfast with another friend to have a prayer time and discuss spiritual things and I was driving the car with my arms crossed. All through the breakfast, the Holy Spirit kept chasing after me saying, “Ritch, you need to forgive this person.” I kept saying, “I am not going to. Not yet.”

I walk into that restaurant and I no sooner sit down and my friend looks at me and asks, “Pastor, could you tell me something, how can I forgive someone when you really don’t want to?” “What did you say?” I gave him a real, nice pastoral answer because I was too proud to tell him of the very difficult problem in my heart, but God’s Spirit cut through me at that breakfast, and He said, “Ritch, how much do you need to hear before you finally heal?”

Forgiveness is a decisive act and the longer we resist, the longer we resist God, and the longer we resist His blessing. When I finally decided to forgive this person, blessings came back and we talked through that. It was a lovely reconciliation and I wondered why did I spend a whole night and morning holding onto that sin? It was only because of my flesh.

Forgiveness is also a continuous process. Our emotions begin to revolt against the decisions we make and after we have decided to forgive, and we have extended forgiveness to the person, our emotions rise up and say, “Hey, I am hurting. Why did you go about forgiving that person? Take it back.” What do we need to do at that point? We need to make a continual process of deciding to forgive.

Forgiveness is a commitment to daily release the offending party from the consequence of their sin. We may have to visit and revisit that decision and affirm it every day for the rest of our lives, and that will be okay.

I do not believe that is going to happen. I believe if you decide to forgive, and depending upon how deep the sin is, it may take weeks or months, but eventually God, in His grace, by your yielding to God’s Spirit, will begin to wash you, to mend you, to make you whole, and heal up the scars of those sins.

We take grave sin, and one of the gravest sins in marriage is unfaithfulness, and people ask if it is possible to forgive. I tell them it is, absolutely. Through Christ everything is possible. God strengthens us for these things so we do not have to wake up every morning with bitterness and anger in our soul.

I am not telling you you can say, “I forgive you,” and walk on as though nothing has happened in your life and everything is happy and free. No, you will wake up then next morning feeling miserable and the next and the next and the next and the next. It is a continual process for these kinds of sins, but I do tell you this, God will bring healing as you submit and yield your life to Him.

The third word which comes to my mind is compassionate. Jesus’ forgiveness is never cold. Jesus’ forgiveness always comes from the heart of the father towards the prodigal son. We remember how the prodigal son wronged his father so gravely and so deeply, yet what happened? As soon as that son was seen from a distance by the father, what happened? His father came running out and he embraced him, and he said, “Put the best robe on him. Kill the fatted calf. Get some rings on this son of mine because he was dead and now he is alive.”

That is the nature of Jesus’ forgiveness. It is never forgiveness with an arm’s length out. It is never, “I will forgive you, but I really do not want to spend anymore time with you. I really do not want to have anything to do with you anymore.”

Jesus’ forgiveness is always compassionate. That does not mean trust is rebuilt in a day; trust needs to be earned, but forgiveness is always given and if we are forgiving as Jesus forgave us with a compassionate and loving heart, we praise God He did. Praise God He says, “Okay, I am not going to punish you and send you to Hell, but I really do not want you to push towards me and get near me anymore.” Instead, He opens His arms and says, “I love you and I want to see a reconciliation of relationship and the first step towards that is my offering of forgiveness. The second step is you receiving it.”

Forgive just as Jesus forgave us.

The last word I consider in reference to Jesus’ example is unconditional. When Jesus forgives us there is no penance to pay. I know there are some teachers who say if you are to be forgiven by God, you have to go through three, four, or five steps, or ten steps, or one hundred steps. Here is what the Bible says, in 1 John 1,

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Bible says the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sins and we simply need to believe and receive.

If God were to ask us, “Why should I forgive you,” I tell you what I would say, “I have no answer to that question. There is no reason I could give you as to why you should forgive me. There is nothing in my person which would earn it, deserve it, or have a rightful claim to it. The only reason I could think of as to why you should forgive me is because you are a loving God and that is what you do; you extend grace and you extend mercy.”

Often times, in our forgiveness, we attach so many conditions to forgiveness so as to make it impossible for the person to be able to ever attain to it. It is important for us to recognize while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

At this point I want to mention a teaching and discuss it because I believe this teaching has gained some momentum within the Christian church and I believe that teaching is sometimes misapplied and misused to cause believers to believe they are right in holding onto resentment. Some good teachers use this phrase we have before us, in Verse 13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” To limit our forgiveness by saying this, “Since God forgives only after a full confession of sin and repentance, then we are only obligated to forgive after someone gives a full and complete confession for forgiveness.” That is the position some teachers hold.

There are several positive aspects of this view. The first positive aspect of this view is it is not passive with regards to the sin of another person; it is active and it seeks to confront sin, to admonish, and to bring about the spiritual restoration of that person toward God. That is a good thing. We ought to seek about the spiritual restoration of another person toward God, and we ought not to be passive in reference to the sins of other people, especially brothers and sisters in Christ.

The second aspect is it does seek complete reconciliation and apart from such a confession, the reconciliation and the reception of the benefits of forgiveness cannot be made. Reconciliation is very difficult apart from this process.

That said, my position is this: the Bible teaches us to unilaterally forgive, but when God tells us to “forgive as the Lord forgave us”, He is referencing these issues I just mentioned – a complete and compassionate nature and an unconditional aspect of our forgiveness, and of the costliness. I believe this can become dangerous for a person to say, “I will not forgive unless they confess.”

There are four reasons why I believe this is dangerous. First, this view presupposes we perceive sin in others as surely and clearly as God does. Friends, this simply is not true. I do not know how things are in your relationship with your wife or husband, but I know in my home there are often times the case where one of us will say, “I think what you did was wrong and you wronged me.” The other will say, “I don’t think I did anything wrong.” What happens in that case? One of us is wrong, but who is wrong? What happens if it comes to a loggerhead where each of us doesn’t see it as the other sees it?

If we “demand” the other person confesses sin, one of two things is going to happen. One, the person gives a false confession and they say, “Okay, I want this thing to be over and I will say, ‘Please forgive me. I was wrong,’” just to get through it. This is not a real relationship.

The other is we feel right and justified in holding onto resentment and not forgiving and extending an openness of reconciliation in the relationship. The truth is, we do not see sin as clearly and as surely as God does. It is important for us, in conflict, to recognize that truth.

Secondly, such a view will temp a person to feel justified in holding onto resentment and bitterness. That is not the way this position is taught. Both sides of this issue teach it is important to be rib of resentment, anger, and bitterness. Often, for the other, they call it something else than forgiveness, and I believe the biblical word is forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s means by which we see our hearts and rid ourselves of bitterness and resentment.

In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul wrote,

8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

The question is: how? The “how” is found in Verse 12 and following, since we need to rid ourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language,

12 Therefore…clothe yourselves… 13 and forgive…one another.

This is how we rid ourselves of these sins.

The third problem with this view is I believe there are misunderstandings of the many examples in the Bible of forgiveness being offered and extended before it is ever being asked. We see that with Joseph, in Genesis 15, when the brothers come after the father has died and they wonder if Joseph is going to retaliate and take revenge. Joseph basically says, “Come to me. I have already forgiven you. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The forgiveness has already been given before you ask and before you can deal with this.”

We see that with Stephen, in Acts 7. Even as the stones were being rained upon him, Stephen calls out to Heaven and says,

60 …“Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

I believe this is an expression of forgiveness.

We see that with Paul in 2 Timothy 4. He was on trial for his life and all of his friends deserted him, and Paul calls out to God and says,

16 “…May it not be charged against them.”

Both Stephen and Paul used the expression we have been talking about, “Please, Lord, I have released them from the consequences of their sin against me and I am asking you to release them and for you to do a work.”

We see this, of course, with Jesus on the cross, in Luke 23,

34 …“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Forgiveness not only releases the others from the consequences toward us, but it wishes and prays toward the end of a release from the full consequences of their sin in reference to God.

The final issue I have with this view is it separates forgiveness from other similar commands in, what I believe is, an artificial way. If these other commands which are related to forgiveness are all tied together, and I do not see how the bond can be unbroken, what am I talking about? Let’s look at Romans 12,

3 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil… 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is my understanding of what forgiveness is. We may be arguing over definitions, but hopefully we are not arguing over attitudes we are to hold in reference to other people. We are not to hold these things against one another.

In Proverbs 19, we read,

11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

In 1 Peter 4, we read,

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

And, we could go on.

Why should I forgive? There are many reasons. Your personal happiness and the health of your soul is at stake. God has given you and me so much. It is an affront to the rich generosity of God to be stingy after we have been given so much.

Here, in Colossians 3, the answer given as to why we should forgive is this – because we are a people who are pursuing a holy life. It is impossible to separate out spirituality from forgiveness. How does a person measure the godliness of their life and whether or not they are making progress as we all desire, as believers and people who are set apart? We can measure it by saying, “Look at my Bible and how many places are marked. Look at my prayer journal and how many people I pray for each day. Look at my church attendance and how often I am here. Look at my ministries and all I am involved in for the work of the Kingdom.”

We say all those things are good and necessary disciplines in order to grow, but the truth of the matter is, is it not true it is possible to have a marked up Bible, a full prayer book, 100% church attendance, and involved in a myriad of ministries and not be godly? The answer is, “Yes!”

What is the marker? Jesus says, “They will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” How is love expressed? In Verse 14 Paul says, “…put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” But, the very application of love is we would forgive each other and if we are having a hard time forgiving other brothers and sister in Christ, we may say and believe until we are blue in the face, “I am a godly woman! I am a godly man!” but, if we are not forgiven we cannot say that, because we are not reflecting Jesus. If we have an angry and a bitter spirit toward other people, there is something deeply wrong.

Why should we forgive? Because we are a people and pursuers of practical godliness and that is a treasure which is worth the pursuit.

The last question is: how can I forgive? “I have tried to forgive. I cannot. It is just too hard.” Friend, remember Colossians 3,

3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

That is who you are! You and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

I want to encourage you to, first, enjoy the forgiveness God offers you. Revel in it. Wash yourself afresh everyday knowing, “I am forgiven and I am made clean of all my sins.” If we do not embrace and accept God’s forgiveness of us, of course, we are going to have a hard time extending forgiveness.

I urge you, second, yield your will to God. It is not a matter of emotions. It is a matter of decisiveness. Clothe yourself with the new life God provides of compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience.

Lastly, I encourage you to pray. Jesus Himself taught us to pray, didn’t He? What did He teach us to pray: “Lord, forgive me my sins in the same way I forgive others.” That is a sobering prayer. Do we really want to renounce the forgiveness God offers to us in Christ? If we pray, “Father, forgive me just as I forgive others,” and we do not forgive, what are we saying to God? What is that prayer saying? It is saying, “God, do not forgive me,” and who would ever want to pray that prayer?

Pray and God’s grace will flow into your life.

Are you forgiven? Forgiveness is offered freely in Jesus. Are you forgiven?

Who is it God is bringing into your mind today? I urge you to bring that person before God and to forgive just as the Lord has forgiven you.