Many Christians think that we only need to forgive the people we love and that it’s not necessary to forgive the ones who have offended us that are just acquaintances or people we really don’t like anyway. Or we think that because we’re King’s kids we don’t have to lower ourselves to forgive the people of world, after all, they’re all going to hell anyway and we can’t be expected to forgive people that we don’t love. And the truth is that we can’t forgive people we don’t love, because love and forgiveness go together.
Jesus is the epitome of love and forgiveness. John 3:16 says that God gave His only Son as a sacrifice for the whole world so that whoever believes and accepts this sacrifice would be saved. This was done in love. Jesus didn’t pick and choose who’d He die for because He loved everyone. And we know from those who forced His crucifixion and from the persecution of the Christians throughout history that not everyone loves Him.
And the significance of the cross is that Jesus bore our sins upon Himself so that we would be forgiven … WE ARE FORGIVEN! We didn’t ask Him to do this and we didn’t deserve this grace but His love for us was so great, even while we were deep in sin, that He gave His life for us anyway. We were all sinners destined for hell but now we are forgiven and we’re part of the family of God.
We study the Bible and we praise and worship the Lord, and we become more like Him and less selective of who we’ll forgive and more gracious to forgive all those who offend us. We begin to see beyond the fabrication of the person and see them as a precious child who Christ died for. And when we treat them as Jesus would, then they see past our physical person and they see Jesus.
It’s safe to assume that most of us love ourselves and even though we do things at times that make us angry, we soon forget it and move on – an admirable attitude that God expects us to have towards other people. In Matthew 22:37-39 we learn that Jesus gave us two commandments. The first is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and body, and the second is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourself.
But then comes the question, who is our neighbor? Jesus was asked that very question and His response to the lawyer in Luke 10:30:36 was to tell the story of the good Samaritan. At the end, He asked the man who he thought the “neighbor” was, and the lawyer replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
So our neighbors are not just the families in our immediate vicinity; it’s the people who we deal with every day, the people who we work with, who we sit with on the bus, who we stand in line with at the coffee shop and who sit at the street corner begging for money.
As our relationship with the Lord grows, we realize that everything He has ever done has been done in love. We become more like Him in our thoughts and in our actions, and everything we do is also done in love. We forgive others because Jesus forgave us. He forgave everyone and so we, too, should forgive everyone. Not because we like them, but because the love of God is in us. And if we can’t forgive those who offend us, regardless of who they are, then we need to get the love of God in our own hearts.
Matthew 6:14,15 says that if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us, but if we do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will our Father forgive our trespasses . We can only hold fast to our own forgiveness if we, through love, can forgive others.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” … 1 John 4:8
Michael English pours his heart out in a song called, Please Forgive Me. Watch it and be blessed.