Forgiveness, by far, has been the greatest gift I have ever received. It has blessed my life at an incalculable measure. My wife, parents, siblings, children, church, friends— all have been hard pressed to either extend the precious gift of forgiveness, or keep an offense. The relationships that I have treasured most are the ones which offer undeserved love. It warms my soul to remember specific moments of reconciliation. When love and mercy are put on display I get choked up. It’s also humbling to realize that I will be in need of forgiveness until glory. I may seek to be like Christ, but I’m aware I fall incredibly short.
Many of us see value in forgiveness. It is extremely powerful, and even transforming. Forgiveness can wrap its fingers around something and turn it on its head. Where there was once a debt, now profit. Where there was once offense, now charity. Where there was once fear, now love and peace. Forgiveness is champion among gifts, yet it isn’t the first gift we always want to offer. Why is that?
In John 1:29 we read John the Baptist saying before a crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” As Jesus places His first step into public ministry, the opening announcement is through Him forgiveness is made possible. That is an extraordinary gift to offer on one’s first day of ministry! Paul teaches the forgiveness found in Jesus flows from an abundance of God’s grace (Eph 1:7-8). This overwhelming flood of grace is for all His children who believe. Elsewhere Paul tells us God’s love and forgiveness were offered while we were still hostile toward Him (Rom 5:8)! That’s the beauty of the Gospel. Though we were in rebellion against Him, He made forgiveness possible through His Son.
There are many reasons why we choose not to forgive. None of us like to be used, abused, deceived, or abandoned. Offenses like these pierce through our very soul. As a result temptations of anger, fear, doubt, or pride arise. Walls are built around us, and relationships are denied access. None of this offers healing. I also believe these practices do not protect us from harm in the end. But is our aim in this life to avoid pain? Is comfort our greatest achievement? I think not. Isaiah 53 prophesied that Christ would be despised, rejected, crushed, judged, and killed. Jesus knew what was being said when He was called the Lamb of God. It meant His body was to become an offering for men and women who were in need of forgiveness. It meant He was to be used, abused, deceived, and abandoned for the sake of those who would believe!
As you enjoy the Christmas season, seek to be generous. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14). And, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). Do not settle for safe and comfortable. Be courageous and pursue reconciliation. In so doing, may the Lord be honored as we seek to love Him and one another.
In Christ by His Grace,