While reading and scanning through some of the New Testament books in Scripture recently, I came across a section titled, “The Christian Life.” Found in the little book of Colossians, one of several letters written by the Apostle Paul to his partner churches, I longed to dig deeper, so I started reading. In just a few verses, a very real truth stood out. Paul’s encouragement to this church was as follows:
“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Colossians 3:12-13
Forgiving others is a difficult action to consistently live out. When we are wronged by those closest to us, our tendency is to figuratively place that offense in our backpack and carry it around with us, just hoping we will find a time to equal the score. Problem is, our backpack starts filling up with the many offenses that occur on almost a daily basis. And as time goes on, our spirit becomes weary from carrying around all that we feel has been done wrong to us. As a result our spirit becomes bitter and our relationships suffer. I once read a quote from an unknown author that stated so beautifully what forgiveness does:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
Paul gives us the measuring stick, if you will, for what our forgiveness should look like. He says we are to forgive “just as the Lord has forgiven” us. When I think about that, I am reminded that in Christ I am forgiven of the times I lied, or cheated someone else. I am forgiven of the times that I have not been faithful to my Savior, or to those around me. I am forgiven of the times that I have taken things that didn’t belong to me. I am forgiven of the doubts, the fears, the rebellion, and the things that I never thought I could be capable of. I am forgiven of all that has separated me from my Lord, Jesus Christ. That’s right, forgiven. The slate has been wiped clean. When God looks at me, He sees me through the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for me. And that same sacrifice was for you too. This doesn’t give us a license to continue in our sin, so as to make a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice, but it motivates us to strive for a holy life because of it. Is your faith in the only One who can make that claim? If so, then you are forgiven. You have been set free from your past, from today, and from your rebellion of tomorrow. You are clean. That’s what Paul means by how the “Lord has forgiven you” (I John 1:9).
Paul writes a few verses later in that same passage that we are to “let the peace of the Messiah….control your hearts.” We search for peace in many places, but true peace, as Paul says, will only be found in letting go of those things that have held us hostage and imprisoned. To truly forgive, we release our hurts and offenses to the One who can heal us from them. And the result is that we will find peace instead of hurt. We’ll discover peace in the place of bitterness. And will begin to possess a peace that will cover any amount of disappointment that may have built up in our lives. Not only will our backpack be emptied of the things that have weighed us down for so long, but we’ll discover that, in Christ, we have someone willing to carry that pack for us.
So, let go. And by doing so, may you find that because you have been forgiven, you too can forgive. And in the process, my you also find that life-giving peace that is provided only in our Messiah.
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