“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32 ESV
Parenting reminds us much of our heavenly Father’s love for us. Personally, as a mother, my heart breaks when my children disobey. I see their insistence on folly as destructive to their souls and lives. Even when they frustrate me and make the same wrong decisions time and time again, I would never wish their harm. I forgive them over and over again out of my momma love for them. This kind of agape love it is not based on their behavior, but on something much deeper. Yet, our kindness toward one another should exhibit this kind of tender-hearted love. God is so gracious to us, despite how much we justly deserve his anger and wrath, and so should we be toward others.
Admittingly, some people are harder to love than others—especially our real enemies or those whom we perceive to hurt us or threaten the ones we love. Why would we want to love people like this? Scripture gives us the answer–Christ loved us in this way while we were still His enemies, and gave us an example to follow if we are his own. As Pastor John MacArthur says, “We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.” The ultimate demonstration of love is forgiveness. Retaliation and vengeance are not ours to administer. It is in His jurisdiction to ensure justice. Moreover, justice would have placed us all behind the fiery bars of hell.
The call of God to love and forgive others in our lives as Christians is a non-negotiable. It is an affront to God’s gracious character and indwelling Spirit, to not forgive others whatever debt they owe us since it could never even come close to the insurmountable dept that Christ paid for us. We cannot stay in the harbor of bitterness in our hearts toward another and not suffer serve consequences. John Hopkins University connects unforgiveness to physical health issues. Ultimately, the culmination of unrepeated unforgiveness is not only detrimental physically, but leads to spiritual death. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Mt:14-15
In contrast, there is wonderful blessings both now and for eternity, in the giving of ourselves away in love. When my late husband checked himself in to be hospitalized after having had what appeared to be a successful bone marrow transplant, his doctors didn’t think it was anything to worry about. He spent a whole week in the hospital before they told us they no longer thought he merely had an infection. At first, I was tempted to be resentful at the doctors for not realizing this sooner. However, when his primary doctor walked in to the ICU room for the first time to tell me that Josh would likely not make it, God had already worked in me to forgive her. I was then able to reassure her with tears streaming down her face. I had the blessing of being able to share with her the reason for the Hope in me of why Josh would be going to heaven–his faith in Christ. Furthermore, I was given peace and comfort within my own aching heart. Grief entails much guilt and anger. I was free of anger and bitterness… The faultiness of humanity point us to the gracious and lavish glories of heaven and freely gifts us with Jesus himself, in whom is found fullness of joy and lasting peace. He is the reason we can forgive and why we ourselves were forgiven.