Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
“How can I forgive him if I can’t forget what he’s done?”
This was the question of a woman who was talking about her husband’s unfaithfulness to his marriage vows. The way she asked the question, however, indicated that it wasn’t so much of a question as it was a statement: ‘I will not forgive him until I no longer remember what he did.’
In her mind, in order for her to move forward in life, to not allow what happened in the past to impact how she treated him in the future, a specific condition needed to be met. She first needed to forget how she was hurt.
That’s not the only condition people might have before they forgive:
“I won’t forgive until they prove they deserve it.”
“I won’t forgive until I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson.”
“I won’t forgive until I’m sure that they’re really sorry for what they did.”
“I won’t forgive until I’m sure that they won’t hurt me again.”
Those sound reasonable. But Scripture has only one condition for our forgiving: Forgive … as God forgives.
Jesus didn’t decide to offer his life only if we proved to him that we deserve it.
Jesus didn’t climb Calvary only after he was sure that we all learned our lesson.
Jesus didn’t hang on the cross only after each person in the world said “sorry” for their sins.
Jesus didn’t wait to die until after he was sure we would never again sin against him.
Knowing our sins, Jesus carried each one to the cross, where he forgave every one of them.
Jesus knows that forgiving someone is hard. He knows that it often hurts. But by forgiving us, even when we didn’t deserve it, he gave us a precious gift that could come in no other way. He gave us grace. He gave us a safe place to which we could come whenever we have sinned. He gave us a way to start healing again.
And that is exactly what you give someone else, and your relationship with them, when you forgive just as God forgives.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the precious gift of forgiveness you won for us on the cross. Help us to forgive others just as you have forgiven us. Amen.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:8-10
There would be no crime. No war. No hatred. No ethnic cleansing. No family squabbles or feuds. No identity theft. No gossip. No pornography. No anger. No jealousy. If only everyone followed one simple rule: love your neighbor as yourself.
But we don’t live in a world like that. We don’t live in homes like that. We don’t follow that one simple rule: love your neighbor as yourself. How can we? To love others perfectly in thought, word, and deed, and do them no harm, but protect, defend, and help them, we would first have to love God. Love God, the loving Father who made us and provides for us. If we fail at loving our neighbor, we fail even more at loving God.
That is one way to define sin: the failure to love God and to love our neighbor. And sin carries a penalty—an eternal penalty.
God alone shows perfect love. His love for us is full and complete and flawless. His love for us does not show favoritism. His love for us does not come and go, wax and wane, go hot and cold. His love for us does not depend on how much we love him—God simply loves us unconditionally.
In love, God sent his Son to heal the sin-torn relationship between us and him. In love, Jesus came to this world and lived the life of perfect love we couldn’t. In love, Jesus credits his perfect love for God and for neighbor to our eternal account. In love, Jesus offered himself for his fellowman—every single one of us in the entire world—on the cross. In love, God declares us forgiven of sin and free from penalty.
God’s perfect, saving love in Christ is free. But we can treat it like a debt in a sense: we can spend the rest of our lives trying to repay the debt of love to Christ by showing love to one another. Christ’s love alone saves us. Our love is our lifelong thank-you.
Prayer: Dear Savior, I struggle to love like you do. Forgive me by your death on the cross. Work in me by your Spirit to love you and love others, treasuring the love you show me. Amen.
15You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. 16When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. 17I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. 18Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? 19Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. 20I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD. 21“I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.” – Jeremiah 15:15-21
If you never grow weary of opposition you face because you are a Christian, if you never struggle to patiently bear the ridicule you suffer because you are a child of God, if you never feel that you have given up a lot (too much!) in order to remain faithful to God’s Word, if you never feel like you are enduring pain instead of the ungodly (who should be!), if you never feel that God is slow or negligent in keeping his promises, if you never feel sorry for yourself—then this message is not for you.
If, however, you know the Lord cares for you, yet you sometimes grow weary of the opposition you face because you are a Christian; if you know God is patient with you, yet you sometimes struggle to patiently bear the ridicule you suffer because you are a child of God; if God’s Word brings you great joy, yet you sometimes feel that you have given up a lot (too much!) in order to remain faithful to that Word; if you know that many in the world are ungodly, yet feel like you are the one enduring all the pain; if you sometimes feel that God isn’t keeping his promises, or at least isn’t keeping them very promptly or very well; if you sometimes feel sorry for yourself—then this message is for you.
Jeremiah’s ministry wasn’t easy. For the most part he was called to proclaim judgment against a wicked and rebellious people. And the people didn’t like that. Therefore, they didn’t like Jeremiah. They persecuted him. They ridiculed him. Jeremiah was often alone. And sometimes that got to him.
Have you ever felt like Jeremiah? Read again Jeremiah’s complaint (verses 16-18). Have you ever questioned God’s ways? Read again the Lord’s response (verses 19-21). Then look again at Jeremiah’s beautiful confession and expression of faith, a confession of faith based on God’s trustworthy words and promises. In the midst of it all, Jeremiah could say, “Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me.”
Dear friend, God who remained faithful to his servant Jeremiah will also, always, remain faithful to you! When you are struggling to understand the when and what and how, may you be blessed to confess: “Lord, you understand.” Then, may that confession give birth to this simple, humble, confident request: “Lord, remember me and care for me.”
Prayer: Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me. Amen.