Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Forgiveness, In the Light of Calvary"

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels (hearts) of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:12-13).

When a fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ sins against us, we will have an initial human response to the offense. We will feel things emotionally and perhaps even physically, and it is not wrong that we do. God has made our humanity to respond to stimuli, both positively and negatively, and we establish a false standard of godliness if we believe that a stoic response to offenses is required of us. "Be ye angry, and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26).

What we do with the response is the great issue. Through faith and submission to God our discomfort becomes an opportunity to glorify Him and accomplish His will in a particularly blessed manner. Believers are "vessels of mercy," and the determination to act accordingly toward offenders reveals the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ in vivid display (Romans 9:23).

Such response is not human. Vengeance is the chosen way of the flesh, and the smiting of our offender's cheek rather than the turning of our own. How then do we "overcome evil with good?" (Romans 12:21). The answer begins with remembrance of truth, especially the truth of who our Lord is in the most foundational element of His relationship to us.

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship Him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13).

When a fellow believer sins against us, we do well to remember that the Lord Jesus died for the particular wrong directed toward us. God has already executed His wrath against our brother's offense by smiting and forsaking His Son on the cross of Calvary. No vengeance is left for us, but rather streams of mercy that flowed from the wounds of Calvary. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven, and remembrance of the price paid for both our sins and the sins of our brother is a powerfully motivating illumination. "Christ died for our sins" (I Corinthians 15:3).

This is only the first step in the process of forgiveness as taught by Scripture. It is vital, however, because it establishes the attitude of heart that will direct our steps of restoration and reconciliation. "Come, my brother, let us consider this matter in the light of Calvary, and in the suffering, forsakenness and death our Lord experienced for your sins and mine." Such determination goes far in softening the hearts of both offender and offended, and repentance and forgiveness become far more likely in both parties. Most importantly, the Lord Jesus is honored in an especially vivid way as the mercy of Calvary becomes the mercy of our hearts. Only He can accomplish such a wonder in us, and as we walk accordingly, it becomes more and more evident that "God is in you of a truth" (I Corinthians 14:25).

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
(Ephesians 4:32)

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