Summary: Our forgiveness of others should look like the forgiveness God provided for us through the cross.
In our passage for today, Paul speaks about the dangers of unforgiveness. He tells us that unforgiveness . . .
A. Negatively impacts our influence on others - v. 29
B. Negatively impacts God’s influence on us - v. 30
Consequently, he tells us to avoid all those things associated with unforgiveness - bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Instead, we are to choose to forgive when we are offended.
He tells what it looks like when we forgive others. It will look like what God has done for us in Christ - v. 32
1. In forgiving us, God did not deny the fact of our sin.
In forgiving us, God did not turn a blind eye to our sin. He did not deny its existence. Rather, He dealt with our sin appropriately by
Likewise, forgiving others does not require that we deny that an offense has taken place. God does not expect us to live in denial. Denial causes us psychological harm. Instead, we should acknowledge our pain and admit our hurt.
When God saw the sinfulness of mankind in Noah’s day, the Bible acknowledges His grief.
“The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” - Genesis 6:6 (NIV)
The Bible says that God was grieved by the sins of the people of Israel who rebelled in Moses’ day.
“How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland!” - Psalm 78:40 (NIV)
Jesus grieved over the rebelliousness of the people in His day.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” - Matthew 23:37 (NIV)
When we sin, it breaks the heart of God even today (v. 30).
God gets emotional about our sin against Him. It hurts. In forgiving us, He is honest about the pain our sin causes Him.
Likewise, in forgiving others, we are not asked to deny the reality of the offense or the depth of the hurt. In fact, facing the reality of having been hurt is essential to our experiencing the healing and wholeness that comes from forgiving others.
A man had a peculiar issue. Though he was clearly alive, he kept insisting that he was dead. His family sought all kinds of treatment for his problem, but to no avail. Finally, his physician hit upon an idea to persuade the man to come back to reality. The doctor asked him if dead men bleed. “No,” he replied, “dead men definitely do not bleed.” Right away the doctor took hold of his finger and pricked it with a needle. As the man looked at the blood bubble up on the end of his pricked finger, he looked at his doctor and said, “What do you know? I guess dead men DO bleed!”
Now, while I described the man in this story as having a peculiar issue, sadly, denial of reality is an issue that is all too common. And this is a problem, because, keep in mind, the primary beneficiary of forgiveness is the one who chooses to forgive.
Some people like to live by the motto, “Fake it. ‘til you make it.” Well, when it comes to experiencing freedom from hurt caused by the
offenses of others, if we pretend everything’s OK, when, in fact, it is not, we will never deal with the need to forgive. And if we don’t ever deal with the need to forgive, we will never be whole.
God does not deny His hurt at our offenses toward Him when He forgives us; and we do not need to deny our hurt at the offenses of
others in order to forgive them.
2. In forgiving us, God did not approve of our sin.
Sometimes, people withhold forgiveness until the other person changes their behavior. They are afraid that if they forgive the other person of their offense before that person admits they were wrong, that they are somehow saying that what that person has done to them was “OK.”
But God didn’t do that with us. God never approved of our sin. God hates sin. But He loves the sinner. So, in Christ, God took the initiative to provide forgiveness for the whole world.
“He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” - 1 John 2:2 (NIV)
You see forgiveness involves only one person - the person who has been offended. Our sin offended God, and He chose to provide for our forgiveness. God didn’t wait for the world to first admit their wrong before He chose to forgive. No, He chose to forgive, and now calls us to repent, so we might be reconciled to Him.