Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
God’s forgiveness is not merely an expression of His heart (although it is certainly that)but also a promise from His word. Our experience of God’s forgiveness is therefore directly tied to our willingness to take Him at His word.
The author of Hebrews explains that our assurance of forgiveness rests on nothing but the atoning blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). Furthermore, when we come to God in repentance, He promises to remember our sins no more (v 17). God has pledged Himself not to keep a record of our iniquities (Isaiah 43:25). In other words, if we try to go back to God with issues that He has already dealt with, we’ll find Him saying, in effect, My dear child, I have no recollection of what you’re talking about. I promised not to bring that up ever again—and so neither should you.
God’s example is meant to be the model for how we forgive others. Forgiving others is not about a feeling; it’s about a promise and obedience. When you or I forgive someone, we are essentially making a three-point pledge: first, that we will not bring the matter up with that individual again; second, that we will not bring it up with anyone else; and third, that we will not bring it back up to ourselves. A genuine expression of forgiveness says, “I want to do for you as God in Christ has done for me.”
This does not mean forgiveness is merely in our minds and an act of the will only. We are clearly meant to forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35). It does mean, however, that our expressions of forgiveness are most genuine when they flow out of an awareness of and sense of gratitude for our own forgiveness from Christ, paired with obedience to God’s command to forgive.
Is there someone you need to forgive? You may not feel like extending forgiveness to another today—but that is not the issue. As a recipient of God’s forgiveness in Christ, you are called to forgive as He has forgiven you. That is not easy, but it is possible. God’s Spirit can enable you to make and keep your promise to do so. When you forgive by making that three-fold pledge in obedience to God’s command, He can and will make the feelings follow.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.