Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 (TM) Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
This is Christ's law of forgiveness as taught in the Gospels (Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:25). We also see it in the Lord's Prayer-"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us" (Luke 11:4). God forgives us, not because we forgive others, but solely because of his great mercy. As we come to understand his mercy, however, we will want to be like him. Having received forgiveness, we will pass it on to others. Those who are unwilling to forgive have not become one with Christ, who was willing to forgive even those who crucified him (Luke 23:34).
We can bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way we live. Paul warns us against unwholesome language, bitterness, improper use of anger, harsh words, slander, and bad attitudes toward others. Instead of acting that way, we should be forgiving, just as God has forgiven us. Are you bringing sorrow or pleasing God with your attitudes and actions? Act in love toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, just as God acted in love by sending his Son to die for your sins.
Fellowship without forgiveness is impossible. We MUST learn to forgive quickly and thoroughly. Holding a grudge against someone and REFUSING to thoroughly forgive is sin, and not only effects our relationship with that person, but effects other relationships, as well as our relationship with God the Father. He will not have an intimate relationship with anyone who refuses to forgive quickly and thoroughly.
The reason God tells us to forgive QUICKLY is because if you do not, a BITTER SPIRIT could develop. Listen to what God warns us about this bitter spirit:
Hebrews 12:14-17 Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. (15) make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (16) Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. (17) You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing--but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
Retaliation and revenge is truly trying to satisfy a SHORT-TERM appetite. Esau later regretted attempting to satisfy this type of appetite and you will as well. The sad thing about bitterness and RETALIATION is that it not only effects you, but others as well. I know people who are not in church today as adults because their parents couldn't get past hurts and bitterness' of the past. These same parents who couldn't get past the hurt, are now hurt because their grown children don't want to have anything to do with God. Why would they? They grew up with parents that never learned the importance of LETTING IT GO, and forgiving in Jesus' name. I have seen it time after time after time.
I plead with you today, strive for RECONCILIATION, not RETALIATION. The bitterness will suck the life out of you and your family. It simply isn't worth it, and you will regret it one day, just like Esau did. You can FORGIVE and move on TODAY, but it is your CHOICE.
As believers, we're called "to settle our relationships with each other." (2 Corinthians 5:18 MSG) We need to consistently forgive others and receive forgiveness from others, or we'll "give up in despair." (2 Corinthians 2:7 CEV)
Whenever we're hurt by someone, we have a choice to make: Will we focus on retaliation or reconciliation?
The Bible speaks candidly about settling the score: "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV)
In God's economy, it's not enough to say we won't seek revenge; we're to press into the very heart of forgiveness, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave us. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
The Bible is very clear that forgiveness is not optional for the Christ-follower. God sets this high standard because he knows how much is at stake in your life: Bitterness and unforgiveness are a cancer that eventually will destroy you from the inside out. Forgiveness is the scalpel that removes the tumor.
This doesn't mean you'll always be able to immediately forgive and be done with it. As you become more and more Christ-like, that will become possible, but for now you may have to work at forgiving someone who has hurt you in a particularly painful way. In other words, you may forgive this person but soon begin to feel a root of unforgiveness growing in your heart.
When this occurs, you can go to King Jesus and ask him to help you with this cycle. He will help you release the offender, and the Holy Spirit will guide you in your effort.
A major point here is that forgiveness is a choice you can make. The power of God, working within you, means you no longer have to remain a slave to unforgiveness or bitterness.
In Colossians, the Apostle Paul provides the basis and motivation for forgiveness: "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:13 NLT, italics added). When we remember the price Jesus paid to forgive us, how can we not forgive? (Romans 5:8)
· When you forgive, you're not pretending it didn't hurt – Forgiveness means you no longer hold the offense against the offender. It means you've pardoned the debt, and you've intentionally chosen to release the one who hurt you. We're to love deeply, because "love covers over a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)
· Stop right now and talk to God – Have an honest conversation with God about someone you need to forgive. Our heavenly Father knows that it's not easy to let go of our hurts, but he will give you the grace to forgive.
· Be honest with God – Cry out to God; tell him exactly how you feel. He won't be surprised or upset by your anger, hurt, insecurity, or bitterness.
"Lord, I ask and and believe that TODAY, even RIGHT NOW, You will give the inner strength to focus on RECONCILIATION and not RETALIATION. Retaliation is from the "god of this world" satan, but RECONCILIATION is from the God of my heart, Jesus Christ! We put our broken relationships, hurt feelings, and anger into Your capable hands and move on in victory and by faith. It is satan's plan to divide and conquer. He wants me to isolate myself from others. He wants you to quit church, even though that is COMPLETELY against Your Word, Lord. So, it is my choice TODAY to get off of the "TREADMILL" of no progress, just doing the same thing over and over and over. Lord, I am reminded that the definition of insanity is "doing the same things over and over and expecting different results." As I choose to get off of the treadmill of unforgiveness and retaliation, then I make another choice to get on the ROAD of great progress and choose to forgive. I know we can do it, Lord, because you promised that I "can do all things through Christ who strengthens you." In Jesus' name, amen!"