The Counter-Cultural Nature of Forgiveness (Forgiveness Part 4)

Steve Behlke   -  

Forgiveness is a profound act of love and transformation that reflects the character of Christ, not American culture.

Even though we’ve all sinned against God’s glory, God said, “I love you and want us to be together again.” So, God paid the penalty for our sins by dying in our place. The innocent one shed His blood so that the guilty may be forgiven. Those who accept His forgiveness through Jesus Christ are fully embraced and transformed and will experience His love and live with Him forever.

This same pattern is given to us to follow. As believers, we are called to lay down our lives for others, just as Christ laid down His life for us. It sounds quite irresponsible in our age, but it reflects God’s grace to us in Christ.

Forgiving others as Christ forgave us sounds quite irresponsible in our culture today, but it reflects God’s grace, the essence of our faith. 

Forgiveness is all about grace. Instead of seeking revenge or holding grudges, we are called to let go of control and extend grace and love to those who have wronged us.

We’re not to wait until we get over it before we forgive. We don’t wait for the other person to apologize, promise never to do it again, and show evidence of genuine repentance. Forgiveness is a profoundly Christian expression of grace that initiates reconciliation, frees both us and the other person, and brings hope, healing, and joy.

Forgiveness is a profoundly Christian expression of grace that initiates reconciliation.

Yes, the forgiveness that God calls us to goes against the grain of our culture. It feels better to demand change or expect the other person to fix everything before extending forgiveness, but true forgiveness comes from God’s Spirit and abiding in God’s love.

1 John 4:9 By this, God’s love was manifested: God has sent His only begotten Son into the world [to die for us] so that we might live through Him [“so that we may be forgiven, reconciled, and given eternal life with Him]. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [payment] for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Of course, the context for loving each other in verse 11, is the cross, enduring the cost of the debt owed, and extending forgiveness to those who’ve hurt and sinned against us (10).

Since this is so countercultural and even a bit counterintuitive, we will never choose to do this if we go by the world’s unforgiving ways. So let me restate a few simple steps in the process of forgiving others:

1. Take your “wounds” to God the Father, the God of all comfort, and to Jesus Christ, our sympathetic High Priest, share your hurt and trust Him for healing.

2. Seek God’s perspective. Read His Word. Do a study on forgiveness in the Bible for yourself. Recall the gospel and your identity in Christ. But truth is absolutely essential to our healing.

Truth is essential to our healing.

Whatever you believe their sin tells you, Jesus’ sacrifice says you are immensely valued, holy to God, and belong to Him. However your flesh wants to retaliate, seek to know and value what God wants you to do and why.

3. Healed and abiding in God’s love, aware of your own forgiveness, make the choice to forgive the person who hurt you.

“Father, thank You for healing me from the pain and resentment. It still hurts, but I can recall what happened and not be controlled by the anger. By Your grace working in me, I forgive them for what they’ve done. I trust you to fulfill all justice. I have hope. I want to act in love.”

4. If possible, communicate forgiveness. (This is only done well when you’ve gone through the first two steps.)

“I’m not saying I’m okay with what you did to me. It still hurts, but I won’t make you suffer for it. I won’t manipulate you nor act in hate or malice. I trust Jesus with what happened and I forgive you.”