Do You Actually Know What Forgiveness Is?
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
My husband and I sat down the other day to read the Bible to our kids before bedtime. He opened our time together by saying “Hey kids, you want to know something really weird and difficult that God asks us to do? He asks us to ‘love our enemies’ – isn’t that weird? Do you feel like loving your enemies or the people who have hurt you or hurt your feelings? Why would God ask us to do that?”
As he went on to explain why we are to love our enemies, the child in me, knowing and having heard this verse my whole life, immediately felt a bit stunned and felt the weight of this peculiar command.
Love your enemies.
We talk about forgiveness and perhaps throw the phrase around casually “You need to forgive.” But LOVE them?
Love the ones who hurt you?
Love the ones who inflicted pain on you either knowingly or unknowingly?
Love the ones who betrayed you?
Love the ones who heap judgement on you?
Love the ones you have sacrificed for as they trample on you?
Love the ones who disregard your feelings?
Love the ones who seek not the good but evil?
Love the ones who cause emotional, physical or even perhaps spiritual pain?
Love the ones who hurt your children?
Love the ones who… didn’t love you…
I just can’t do that.
I mean, I can’t in my own strength. But then I remember I must in order to forgive because they must behold one another, they actually go together.
Love IS forgiveness and Forgiveness is Love.
You see, love is intrinsically opposite of the way our nature is inclined to react.
When love is fully operating to the capacity of that which it is capable look what happens :
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Love covers a multitude of sins.
How many? The verse says – A multitude – many, lots, more than can be counted. This kind of love covers more sins than you or I can count.
What kind of sins? Well, I suppose…all.
Every. Single. One.
The ones we consider big and the ones we consider not so big…are all in need of being
saved …by love…
forgiven …by love.
Both the outward ones we can see and point at and the inward ones that we hide but still create just as much of a divide between us and God… those, too.
They all need to be covered by this love.
But this isn’t just your ordinary kind of love. Not the kind of love that we lump together in a multitude of categories like “I love my husband and I love snickers bars and I love shopping.”
This kind of love is far beyond a natural human love.
It must be foreign, this kind of love. This kind of love is not just unconditional, it’s sacrificial. It gives up something. It gives up someone for the sake of someone else. It’s the kind of love that can pardon sin.
That word ‘cover’ actually means to “pardon”. To pardon someone actually means “to cancel the debt.” But in order to do that someone has to pay.
Someone has to forgive.
To be honest with you, when I really break down this verse in this way and I think of those who have wronged me or those who have wronged those that I love, the last thing I feel like doing is “pardoning” them. The last thing I feel like doing is canceling their grievance against me or that person I love. The last thing I feel like doing is forgiving them.
Usually the first thing I feel like doing looks a little more like giving them a high five in the forehead with a chair. Just being honest.
But that isn’t what we are called to do. Man, I hate it when the way I feel doesn’t line up with scripture. Then, I have to totally check my heart and realize…
I’m the one who needs that pardon.
I’m the one who needs the forgiving.
I’m the one who needs my debt cancelled, too.
I see this when over and over I’m faced with those things in life where my heart wants to line up naturally and innately with Gods heart and it isn’t quite so natural.
In the place of forgiveness we are not releasing the person from consequence or even judgement, we are just taking ourselves off of the jury and putting God in His rightful place. We are reminded that we too sit as ones being defended by a love willing to pardon OUR grievances… our bitterness… our sins. And the thought of that – that someone would stand up in our place, cover our stains, pardon our sin and forgive is humbling. Humbling enough to cause one sinner to forgive another, but only in the presence of love.
Jesus died for ALL.
Those who have failed to love us well.
ALL of us.
And He did all of this because of Love.
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
So, once again, I go back to being like a child, looking to a love that is peculiar and not limited like the love I have to give. I am reminded all over again of the amazing love that came down to set me free and how that love can move through me if I allow it to.
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