No this is not a plug for paper towels. It is a short guide for Gospel living. Particularly, it is a guide for living with people who have sinned against you.
If we “think from the cross” we find the core of how to forgive others their offenses. Hanging naked and shredded by the whips and insults of man, Jesus spoke not a word against them. He absorbed the warfare against Him like a pillow. The insults did not bounce off Him like a wall, returning insult for insult. His heart was supernaturally soft, not hard. He asked from the depths of His being, “Father, forgive them.”
But the maltreatment from men was just a shadow of the real suffering He was to undergo. The wrath of God was coming His way.
It is because Jesus absorbed the infinite wrath of God as a willing substitute for sinners that all who believe are not only saved but given Christ’s loving, forgiving Spirit. He makes us like a pillow, absorbing the insults and injury’s of others “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18: 22)
Christian, do not forget that the ability to continually forgive and love those who sin against you is nothing short of supernatural. You CAN absorb in your heart- through the love of the crucified Christ- all insults and hurts, in a way that is analogous to and empowered by Christ Himself. But this takes deep fellowship with Christ, or our hearts are like walls- vengeful- and not pillows. Our vengeance my be passive-aggressive or obviously “out there,” but it is self-absorbed sin either way. We must be Christ-absorbed if we would be forgiving.
To the extent that we are out of sweet fellowship with Christ we are to the same extent exposed to having hard hearts toward others. We smile on the outside, perhaps, but we seethe inwardly, turning over and over in our minds the memory and pain of the sins against us.
Now, if you are not having FELT fellowship with God in Christ then the best you can do is to try to rationalize another’s sins against you. Not that there is anything wrong with, “He had a terrible childhood, I can overlook this offense.” Such thinking can be helpful in our weak quest to live at peace with others. Yet it is not the forgiveness Christ calls us to.
We are called to overlook offenses by forgiveness, not by rationalization. There is always a reason for another’s sin, but it is still sin. They have still done evil to you. The glory of God is that we look it square in the face, call it evil, and completely forgive it. To do so we must look square at the wounded Jesus Who now reigns on high. In Him we find the power of full and hearty forgiveness. Oh, what a joy to forgive! To love your enemies! It is not only possible, it is a great delight!
By knowing- experiencing- the love and forgiveness of Christ towards us, we can experience the sweet dissipation of the feeling of retributive anger. Oh, the release of unnecessary burdens!
What if they don’t repent? What if they are continually sinning against you? On a heart level there is no difference. Your heart, bathing in the surpassing love of Christ for you, the chief of sinners, stays tender toward the offender.
Or do you not see yourself as the chief of sinners? He who thinks he has been forgiven little, forgives little. He who thinks he has been forgiven the world forgives as a way of life and as easily as breathing.
Let me tell you friend: my sins murdered Jesus Christ. My sin- past, present and future- put Him on the cross. And in turn He did what to me? He stayed on the cross. He STAYED there. As the blood from His crown of thorns continued to drip into His infinitely gentle eyes, He thought of me, and waited for the crushing anger of God to sweep over Him. To sweep over Him in my guilty, murderous, place. I deserve Hell from Him. He, in love, not only forgives me completely, but is preparing a place for me in Heaven. Oh my God! What shall we say?!? What shall we do?!?
Rejoice! Forgive completely, and absolutely, and repeatedly! And live the love of Christ!
Here are the words of the King Who willingly became a curse: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6: 27-28)