Forgiveness may just be the hardest thing we do in life. At times it can be downright agonizing, amen?
But agony meets ecstasy, and forgiveness is an enviable invitation into the very heart of Christ. When we forgive at great expense, dying to ourselves and our desire for self-justification, we know Him better. We experience the miracle of His life in us. We wade deeper into the ocean of His love.
And what does His love look like? C.H. Spurgeon put it beautifully in his sermon on Ephesians 4:32:
All our transgressions are swept away at once, carried off as by a flood, and so completely removed from us that no guilty trace of them remains. They are all gone! O ye believers, think of this, for the ALL is no little thing: sins against a holy God, sins against his loving Son, sins against gospel as well as against law, sins against man as well as against God, sins of the body as well as sins of the mind, sins as numerous as the sands on the sea shore, and as great as the sea itself: all, all are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.
All this evil was rolled into one great mass, and laid upon Jesus, and having borne it all he has made an end of it for ever. When the Lord forgave us he forgave us the whole debt. He did not take the bill and say, ‘I strike out this item and that,’ but the pen went through it all—PAID. It was a receipt in full of all demands, Jesus took the handwriting which was against us and nailed it to his cross, to show before the entire universe that its power to condemn us had ceased for ever. We have in him a full forgiveness.
Dear one, I have too often been the hypocrite—the one who was freely pardoned $1,000,000,000 only to be caught violently demanding repayment of a $5 debt. To put it another way, if my sins were all the sand of the world’s seashores, your offense against me would be a solitary grain of sand. When I withhold forgiveness from you, I betray the fact that I don’t understand calvary love at all.
But what of the times I’m obediently forgiving—yet tempted to make much of it in my heart? Do I secretly believe I’m the only one being wronged, the only one perpetually pardoning others?
Again, Spurgeon says it so well:
[Ephesians 4:32 says] ‘forgiving, one another.’ One another! Ah, then that means that if you have to forgive to-day, it is very likely that you will yourself need to be forgiven to-morrow for it is “forgiving one another.” It is turn and turn about, a mutual operation, a co-operative service. In fact, it is a joint-stock business of mutual forgiveness, and members of Christian churches should take large shares in this concern.
You forgive me, and I forgive you, and we forgive them, and they forgive us, and so a circle of unlimited forbearance and love goes round the world. There is something wrong about me that needs to be forgiven by my brother, but there is also something wrong about my brother which needs to be forgiven by me, and this is what the apostle means—that we are all of us mutually to be exercising the sacred art and mystery of forgiving one another.
Let us begin our Christian career with the full assurance that we shall have a great deal to forgive in other people, but that there will be a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves, and let us set our account upon having to exercise gentleness, and needing its exercise from others, ‘Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’
Who have we received forgiveness from today? Who do we need to forgive today—in such a way that “no guilty trace remains”?
For more thoughts on forgiveness, read 5 Ways to Pursue Peace in a Difficult Relationship.