Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Hello friends, this week we are memorizing Ephesians 4:32 where Paul gives us guidance on how we should act as followers of Christ. Earlier in Ephesians 4, he speaks of our unity in the body of Christ, each designed for a purpose with special gifts given by God. Together, when each part is working properly, we are built up in love as one body with Christ as the head.
1 Corinthians 12:12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
We are the body of Christ and our bond – our unity – is the gospel message. As we learned in 1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us. If our love is not a direct response to His love for us, that unity breaks down and our self seeking desires begin to take over.
God’s love in action is seen through forgiveness. We do not deserve His forgiveness and we cannot earn His forgiveness.
Written into our DNA is the desire for justice. When we are wronged or someone we love is hurt, we demand justice. And yet each one of us needs unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness by our Heavenly Father. A holy and perfect God who cannot leave any sin unpunished has graciously given us the forgiveness we need to be made right in his sight.
So as Paul reminds us of who we are in Christ, we remember that our kindness to another, our forgiveness for each other, is a natural response to the forgiveness that God has given us.
The price God paid to pardon our sins is substantial and we are instructed by Jesus to take it very seriously.
Matthew 5:11-12 (The Lord’s Prayer)
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Do you notice that forgiveness is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that is directly tied to something that we do? Jesus further clarifies this point in the verses immediately following the prayer. We have an obligation to forgive others. This is in direct conflict with our desire for justice. It is easy to forgive those who are repentant or make right their wrongs – who give you justice. But Jesus, on the cross, asked for God’s forgiveness to those who put Him there.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The same is true of Stephen, the Christian church’s first recorded martyr. While standing on trial before the religious leaders, Stephen walks through the Israelite history and all the ways God provided for a nation that consistently rejected Him.
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
This forgiveness can only be given through the supernatural power of the cross. With a compassion and a desire that none should perish but have eternal life.
Since this forgiveness is not natural, we need God’s help. We take our burdens to Him, our anger, our confusion, and lay them at His feet. We remember that our justice is found at the cross. We remember that we are enemies of God without the cross. In light of this, our view of our own enemies will change.
We are promised eternal life with Him. We know that He loves us and will take care of us. We place our faith and trust in Him during our conflicts, trials, and hardships. And for those that inflict those troubles on us, we are able to see them as children of God who need saving and forgiveness. Our hearts are naturally filled with compassion.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Many times, this supernatural forgiveness is the greatest testimony of God’s heart. May you bless each other this week as you express kindness and forgiveness, that can only come from God, during times of conflict.
In Christ’s Strength Alone,