Simply put, we are empowered to forgive because of what Christ has done for us and in us. Last week, as I was preparing for the small group of which I am a part at the local church I attend, I found myself meditating more and more deeply on God’s gracious gift of forgiveness. And the more I contemplated its reality, the more awestruck I became as the magnitude of God goodness (if that is possible) became more clear to me.
The Noah Webster 1828 dictionary defines forgiveness as, “The act of forgiving; the pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty.” I mean seriously, Selah, just pause and think about that. He treated us as not guilty, even when justice demanded that he should not. We have all failed miserably in certain places in our lives, sinned horribly against God. In some cases, we have blatantly disregarded what we have known to be right. Yet in all of this, God has remained faithful in both his willingness and desire to forgive us, to make a way whereby we can be reconciled to him through the completed work of Christ on the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, while we were still doing our own thing, not concerned or even caring about anything God had to say, he sent his own Son to die for our sins. According to today’s understanding, that would be equivalent to giving your child as a sacrifice for the benefit of one who not only worked against you but potentially did not like you. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. In reality, it is harder to see someone we love be wounded rather than suffer that same wound ourselves. Yet, that is what God did when he sent Jesus to suffer and die for the wrong each of us has committed against him.
Though it may not be easy, because of this, we are empowered to forgive. Romans 6:6 says, “Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The verb used here is present tense, signifying the present state or condition of the one who has placed his or her trust in Christ. To think about it a different way, we are set free from the that which held us captive to living lives contrary to God’s standard. We also read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And from in Romans 5:1 we learn, ““therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” All of these are present tense. We have the power to carry out all that God desires because of who we have become in him. The completed work of Christ on the cross and the indwelling Spirit, who comes to live in us as a result, empowers us, fills us with the grace to do all God requires, that includes the grace to forgive. In the book of Philippians 2:13 we are informed, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” God did not only require us to forgive. He first became the example by doing it himself. Before we are commanded to forgive, we become the beneficiaries of the same forgiveness. We are brought back into right relationship with him. We are filled with his grace, which is his divine influence on our heart for the enabling of its manifestation in our lives. To put it another way, while forgiveness is certainly not easy, it does become possible both through what God has done for us and in us in the person of Jesus Christ.
May God fill you with his peace and joy this week, and my you empowered with the grace that he provides to live in continued alignment with his will for your life.