Time and time again, we are exhorted by the scriptures to forgive one another. Scripture sets out a very clear standard of the kind of forgiveness that Christians are to offer, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). We are called to forgive as completely as we have been forgiven. We are called to forgive in such a way because that kind of forgiveness truly sets a captive free, what’s so amazing is that I find, more times than not, the captive is me.
There are many forms of sin that have the capacity to bind us and to imprison us. Over my 37 years of pastoral ministry, I have witnessed the power of unforgiveness and the devastation that it brings, not only to the one who refuses to forgive, but also to the concentric circles of relationships that surround the one unwilling to forgive. Unforgiveness also has the power to infect generations of a family line.
“Forgive each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
I have a pen and ink drawing in my office of Christ on His knees, washing Peter’s feet. For me, it is a constant reminder of what “servant leadership” looks like. But on another level it causes me to continually ask myself the question, “Is there anyone in my life before whom I would not be willing to posture myself in such a way?”
As we begin the year 2015, I would like to ask each of you, “Are you harboring any ill-will or unforgiveness against another today?” Is there anyone in your life at this present time that you would not be willing to go to with a basin and towel in hand and wash their feet? The Apostle Paul exhorts us to never let the sun set on our anger because it gives great opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Is forgiveness easy? No, it is not. But scripture is clear that harboring ill-will against another or being unwilling to forgive another on this horizontal plain, greatly compromises our fellowship on the vertical plain, fellowship with our Lord. In fact, scripture insinuates that when we harbor unforgiveness, God’s ears are stopped up in regards to hearing our prayers. For me, personally, that is too big of a price to pay for the privilege of licking my wounds.
We are commanded to forgive one another in spite of our feelings. I have found over the years that if I will be obedient in this regard, extending forgiveness when forgiveness is the last thing that I want to extend, the feelings of forgiveness usually follow closely on the heels of my obedience to forgive.