The Path To Gospel Forgiveness
By Patrick Badstibner
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13
Addicted To Love
Forgiveness only happens when God’s love so overwhelms us that it causes us to love others with the same love that He loves us with. In order for that to happen, the focus has to shift from their sins to a focus that reveals glaringly that the greatest sin, the greatest ill, is found within us personally, not without and that is always costly for it forces us to swallow with big gulps, our pride.
In the swallowing of pride we eagerly run to God, jumping in our Father’s laps like the child who runs and says “Daddy I am sorry”, as we confess and repent of our own sin. Sure signs that we have not done this are as follows:
- We remain irritable, defensive and on edge when the persons name is brought up.
- We continue to blame the other party for the way they made us feel.
- We continue to avoid the other party or we say things like “it’s forgiven, it’s in the past…let’s not talk about it.”
- We are quick to name the bad faults of the other party, so ours don’t seem so bad.
Legalism reveals itself in many ways, but no matter how it reveals itself it always comes from a view that brings judgmental attitudes, pre-check lists, and/or conditional, meet these requirements, forgiveness. A view that says we can measure one’s apology, measure one’s repentance to decide if such is real or not.
A view that looks at the outer appearance of what we think is livable, judgments based on our target sins, sins that for us are definitely against the moral code that we have established. A view that keeps us from viewing our sins.
Worst of all, because it does not force us to view our sin first, our inner hero awakens and we feel that to make our lives right again, we must get something out of the person. Even if it is just for them to admit that they were wrong. We must save ourselves from the torment and peril of how bad it feels that they have not recognized what they did.
While this does not excuse them from doing so, their failure to, does not excuse us from giving a forgiveness, that just became even costlier because it is given regardless of any response. Sound familiar? Sure it does, just two words speak of the familiarity of that cost, the cross.
That is why when one forgives, it must always be from a view of God’s law, that demands us to view our inner hero through the eyes of Jesus,such as the words in (Matthew 5:19-20,48), otherwise it really is not forgiveness, it’s just a placard holder of good emotions. Which is why we are all too prone to be hurt again, find offense again, allow the old hurt to raise back up, to fight for justice, truth and the American way with our inner hero.
Where a right reflection on God’s law, always drives us back to where our focus should be and the awareness of what the gospel has saved us from and to…
Grace Driven Forgiveness
Gospel forgiveness will always require us to take a view that says that the person who offended us, their overall offense will never be as great as the fact that there will few moments in which we will be completely responsible, grateful and found responding accordingly to a cross of suffering. Not to mention what Christ has already forgiven us for. This Jerry Bridges quote sums it up best:
The person who is living by grace sees this vast contrast between his own sins against God and the offenses of others against him. He forgives others because he himself has been so graciously forgiven. He realizes that, by receiving God’s forgiveness through Christ, he has forfeited the right to be offended when others hurt him.
Such a view comes, when we view God’s law as it does not allow us to escape the 400 pound gorilla pressing on our shoulders (Romans 3:20) which reminds us that we seldom will ever make the right choice for the right reason, for the right purpose, with the right motivation. It reminds us that we are not the winners of life, but the losers, it reminds us that there was never anything in us to begin with worth insulting or attacking and there still isn’t, it reminds us that we are not standing as part of club med where the fit, beautiful, aspiring, healthy stand, but we are hanging out most of the time at the county dung mine and we sure smell like it.
That 400 pound gorilla does its best work as it chases us out of the comparison game, moves our focus away from how we have been offended or hurt, away from our inner hero that demands we focus on how to get restitution and make us feel better and moves it back to the one who suffered real pain, the real hero (Hebrews 12:2). The one in whom when we compare ourselves to HIM, instead of each other, we realize we just ain’t all that. In other words it moves us back to the truths that come as part of learning to live out the gospel of grace in our lives.
In the deepest of hurt, the deepest of offense, let’s face it, some are quite painful, so painful that we would have rather had a limb cut off without anesthesia, even here there is still the greater truth. The truth that we call gospel.
A gospel that says because we are passionately loved, regardless of how they respond, we can risk the cost of forgiveness. Because of the cross we need not fear, we need not have them give anything back, we don’t have to have them own up, we don’t even need them to change, we need nothing in return to forgive, not even an apology. We hear the words of the Holy Spirit pointing us to truths that tell us we no longer have to fight for our significance, importance or adequacy by defending ourselves when someone does or says something hurtful.
We are the beloved, bride of Christ and He is our passionate, intimate lover from the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:15-17). Quite frankly who cares, what anyone else thinks. 😛 😛 😛 The fact that we still do and we do, is one of the reasons why we need Christ not just to return to rescue us from the evils of the world, but from ourselves every moment. It is also why we don’t just need new grace every day from God, but every moment.
It is not that we have gained the ability suddenly to not let things bother us or control how things effect us(Hurt does not just disappear and the same things that hurt us yesterday, if our view has not changed will hurt us tomorrow.), nor have we become a new and improved, better, version of us, nah we are still the player no team wants. In fact if we keep hoping for our inner superhero to finally come to the rescue we may discover that he/she has failed us again (Romans 7:20-25) and we still feel miserable, maybe even worse than we did when we were first
hurt, which happens more than we realize (maybe we do).
No, it is because our heart is new, because Christ lives there (Galatians 2:20). Christ along with the owner (Father God) and the coach (Holy Spirit) got together before the game began (Ephesians 1:1-4), put together the ultimate game plan which drew out all the plays for the winning drive, Christ the perfect star player made all the plays perfectly (2 Corinthians 5:21) and now the coach is showing us how (John 14:26) and enabling us to allow the perfect player to play the game, as only HE can (Ephesians 3:17). (No, Peyton Manning is not Christ).
We can risk being the hands of grace into the person who makes us feel like we rubbed against a thorn-bush. In fact, they may be the very thorn-bush that God is using to teach us these lessons and to really help us understand how deeply He loves us.
When we remember that we soon find no joy or happiness in finding the evil of others, looking for them to fall, looking for retribution, holding what they have done against them, that we are able to find joy in helping those who have hurt us, to see the love of God. Which may mean helping them see how their actions are hindering them from knowing real joy that comes from making the most of God or it may mean sweeping it under the foot of the cross. This quote from Steve Brown says it best;
“The Body of Christ is so connected that we should taste the salt of one another’s tears. When failure marks a brother or sister, that’s our failure. When our Christian friends triumph over sin or stand strong, we should all sing “The Hallelujah Chorus.” Your sin is my sin and your faithfulness is my faithfulness. We’re in this together…all of us. And we all have enough sin and even a bit of success on occasion. It makes for a very strong bond.”
Today, you decide! Just remember either way it will cost! Refusing not to forgive, will be costly as well, maybe even more so.