“and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
I’m sorry. Can you think of two harder words to say in the English language? Why is that? Is it because it requires us to admit we made a mistake, that we did something wrong? I’m sure that I can’t be the only person who really doesn’t like to admit that they were wrong. Perhaps the only thing worse than being wrong is having to admit it to the 5-year-old who calls you out on your mistake (not that it has ever happened to me before).
Even though most of us don’t like to seek forgiveness, when we look to the Scriptures we see repeated reminders that when someone asks for forgiveness we should give it to them. We are told to do this because God has likewise forgiven us through Christ, even if we didn’t deserve it. There is no shortage of verses that deal with forgiveness, but I selected the one above from Ephesians 4:32 for a specific reason. It not only contains the instruction that we should forgive one another it also tells us how we should behave when doing so.
When you take verse 31 from immediately before it into consideration as well it reads:
“31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
We are not to forgive with an angry spirit, rather we are to put those ugly sinful human emotions aside and to be kind and tenderhearted (or as it is also commonly translated, compassionate) to one another. I think this is important for us to remember in our relationships both within the church but also outside its doors.
I asked if saying “I’m sorry” were the two most difficult words to say, perhaps the only ones that are more difficult are, “You’re forgiven”. When someone approaches us seeking forgiveness we are not to offer a cursory “You’re forgiven” or “it’s ok”. Rather when someone seeks true genuine forgiveness we are to embrace that person and offer our genuine “You’re forgiven”. I’ll be the first to admit it is not an easy thing to do, but it is what our heavenly Father expects of us.
Do you have a couple of words you need to say to someone? I didn’t ask which pair of words it might be that you need to say, but I would argue it doesn’t matter. Whether seeking forgiveness or granting it we should treat one another with kindness and compassion, just as our Heavenly Father has treated us.
(To read the rest of the October newsletter, click here: October 2017)