“As God’s chosen people; holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. “
Colossians 3: 12-14 NIV
Forgiveness is not easy. It is multifaceted and complex with many layers to understand. One question is what is Christian forgiveness? Do we, as Christians understand forgiveness differently then a cultural understanding of forgiveness. I do think there is a difference. First and foremost we as Christians understand forgiveness through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We understand forgiveness in light of the forgiveness we receive through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross. As Colossians 3:13 states, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We are forgiven so that informs our understanding of forgiveness. Also, we understand forgiveness not as a forgiveness of our personal mistakes or offenses; we recognize it as a forgiving of our sins, so that we can be in community with God and each other. Dr. L. Gregory Jones in his book, Embodying Forgiveness, writes, “ . . .the purpose of forgiveness is the restoration of communion, the reconciliation of brokenness. Neither should forgiveness be confined to a word to be spoken, a feeling to be felt, or an isolated action to be done; rather, it involves a way of life to be lived in fidelity to God’s Kingdom.”
Living in faithfulness to God, means tailoring our lives with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. They become our default settings and the program that runs our life. Therefore, living in faithfulness to God, forgiveness means that we give up our right to retaliation in order to be used by God as an agent of restoration.
Another layer of forgiveness is that we are not called to be in relationships that are harmful, psychologically, or physically. This leads to another question for another blog, “Does forgiveness require repentance? “