The Basis of Reconciliation. Unconditional Forgiveness.
Read Col. 3:12-17.
“Forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
Our willingness to forgive is often directly related to our perceived severity of the offense. We find it easy to forgive minor offenses. If someone bumps into us and causes us to spill our coffee, we quickly forgive them and move on without much thought. But if someone (especially someone close to us) says something demeaning or spiteful and causes us a deep hurt, we harbor our bitterness and breakoff communications. Their major offense makes it difficult to forgive and move forward. The greater the pain, the more difficult it is to forgive.
In Colossians 3, Paul sets forth the new attitude and conduct to mark the child of God. Because we have been “raised with Christ,” we are now to put off the former way of life and put on a new lifestyle and attitude (vss. 1-2). The former life was marked by anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech (vs. 8). But now, we are to replace those with a new attitude of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. For Paul, what truly reflects our new relationship with Christ is our attitude and response to others. Instead of attacking and criticizing the failures of others, we are now to bear with one another. The word used conveys the willingness to endure something unpleasant or difficult, to hold oneself back from another.” In other words, instead of reacting to the offense of another, we are to be willing to endure it. We are to put up with difficult people willingly.
Our patience with people leads to our willingness to forgive them. Paul sets the standard of forgiveness, and that standard is the forgiveness of Christ. We to forgive others in the same manner that Christ forgave us. The idea of forgiveness involves demonstrating grace and forgiveness that is freely offered to those who do not deserve it. This is the manner of Christ’s forgiveness of us. He forgave us and demonstrated mercy towards us while still sinners and acting in hostility towards him (Romans 5:8-10). But here, we must compare our offenses against God and people’s offenses towards us. Our offense towards God is immeasurably greater than even the worst offense someone has committed against us (see Matthew 18:21-35). If Christ is willing to forgive the wrongs we have done against him, which are major, how much more should we be willing to forgive even the worst offense someone has done against us that is minor and trivial in comparison.
Christ sets the standard. No matter how great the offense, his grace and mercy exceeds it in his willingness to forgive. He not only forgives our transgression but restores us to full fellowship with him. He demonstrates compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience towards us, not when we have earned his favor, but when we are least deserving of his grace.
This is what gives us perspective regarding the offense of others. When we understand the depth of our offense towards God, then any wrong that others have done against us seem trivial and minor in comparison. If we see their offenses against us as significant and unworthy of our forgiveness, then it is because we have trivialized our sin against God.
Do you hold a grudge against people? Do you feel justified in your offense and unwillingness to forgive? Are you easily offended by what others have done and find grace difficult to bestow? The problem is not with their failure to understand the severity of their wrong against you; the problem is your failure to understand the severity of your wrong against God. When we realize the extent of God’s grace towards us, then forgiving others becomes easy and natural.