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The Power to Forgive

Among all ways followers of Jesus are called to live like Jesus, none of them are as difficult as forgiving those who hurt you. But, there is good news for the followers of Jesus, it is the following of Jesus that makes forgiveness possible.

Most of the Christian experience is focus on our vertical relationship with our Creator. But, your vertical relationship with God has horizontal implications. If the vertical is broken, so is horizontal. Because if your relationship with God, through faith, hasn’t been established then it will have dramatic implications for the way your live life with others.

The rhythm of the Christian life is that we love God because he first loved us, SO THAT we can move toward our horizontal relationships with love. God righted the vertical relationship but we still have horizontal problems. These horizontal problems require that the follower of Jesus rightly and deeply embrace the practice of forgiveness – both giving and receiving.

Christian counselor, Jay Adams, says “Forgiveness is the oil that keeps the machinery of the Christian home and church running smoothly. In a world where even those who have been declared perfect in Christ still sin against each other, there is much to forgive.” In Scripture, forgiveness is a promise. Maybe the most radical promise. It is the promise of God for a repentant sinner that his/her sin will never be remembered, that his/her sin will be buried in the depths of the deepest sea.

Consequently, our forgiveness towards others is the same. This is radically different than the common reframe of “I will forgive, but not forget.” You do not have to allow yourself to be hurt, so sin can change the dynamics of a relationship. But true forgiveness must be extended. Forgiveness is mercy without boundaries

Let’s be honest, the fullest experience of forgiveness involves the other person recognizing the wrong that he has done against you and repenting and asking for forgiveness, and then you give forgiveness freely by grace because of what Christ has done for you. But, unfortunately, this is rarely how it happens.

In fact, forgiveness is often more adversarial than we hope. Yet, we are called to love our enemy. And when I say enemy, I am not just thinking about a declared enemy, but rather people like spouses or sons or daughters or dads in this case who in the moment are acting like an adversary. They are hurting you the way an enemy would hurt you. They are not your enemies in that sense, in the cosmic sense, but rather they are in that moment acting with hostility toward you.

The Bible doesn’t just talk about forgiveness. It talks about loving our enemy. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). And Peter picked it up in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

The Christian is choosing not to be the punisher, but treating the other person better than they deserve — in a sense, as if they hadn’t been hurt.

Jesus loved first so you can love, Jesus forgave so you can forgive. When we have been hurt we vow we will never allow that to happen again so we become distant and then we are distant from love and run to our vow. Let God love you. You can forgive. You can be forgiven.

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Chris Lawson

Founder of, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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