“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32
It’s really not that complicated. We are to forgive, because and to the degree that God has forgiven us. Forgiveness flows downhill, as it were. It is a spring-fed river, welling up from the heart of God, and it comes to us free, clear, and in abundance. Forgiveness comes to us inevitably on its way to someone else. Yet, when we withhold forgiveness, we damn up the flood of grace that could come to others. To put it another way, unforgiveness damages the gospel.
So where do we go when when forgiveness seems so hard, nay impossible? When you think you have forgiven someone, yet you see them and slowly begin to seethe with anger, where do you take your heart? You go back to the spring. It’s where the water is the coldest. To really go deep into forgiveness, we must remember both the paradigm and the person. God’s forgiveness in Christ is the greatest example of forgiveness. In all of God’s action toward us, and especially in forgiveness, we find the paradigm for our action in love toward others. We forgive in the same manner and to the same degree that God has forgiven us: completely and from the heart. But the gospel goes deeper than just an example. Forgiveness is not an exchange between two inanimate objects, it is an exchange between persons. God’s forgiveness of us is not only our example, it is the very power in us for forgiveness. When we survey the wonder of God’s rich, free grace to us, we tap into the very heart of God, our greatest resource for forgiveness. Fly to him. Dwell in the sweet mercy of your Father. Consider the enormity of his love. Is there a bottom to the barrel of grace that you and I need? Will the well ever run dry? And will our need for it ever run out?
“A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains; And should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace.”