Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
In virtually every wedding ceremony, we hear the list of love from 1 Corinthians 13 and many of us have heard sermons where we are told the word “love” can be replaced with the name “Jesus” as He is the only one who has perfectly demonstrated those virtues.
Peace and love go hand in hand. Allowing the peace of God to rule in your hearts is conditioned upon putting on love. Many times, believers say they have peace with God yet harbor jealousy, bitterness, and unforgiveness. This letter to the church of Colosee sets out to put the record straight.
It is important for us to read the word of God (some people like reading plans) in the whole. I prefer to read books (I recently did Proverbs and am now in Psalms) in different translations because I find my brain skips over things “I know” when I only read the translation (NKJV) that I’m most familiar with. The Word is effective to work in you to transform you with your belief.
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
Just as, by an act of your will, you have to put off the former things, believers have to put on the Christ things. It’s true that living by a checklist doesn’t work, but as you think about who Christ is and when you allow the Word of God to do its work in you, your very nature will change.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7a
By no means to I intend to posit that forgiveness is easy; quite the contrary. It goes against our very nature. As Americans, it goes against our culture of justice and fairness. But the culture of Christ is what should reign supreme. It’s a difficult thing to say to oneself “I don’t have the right to this grudge.”
In prayer, we can ask Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit to help us forgive.
“Lord, I know I should forgive [Person A] for [Behavior X]. Please change my heart. Help me to be more like You.”
It should be said that this process is not instantaneous, for the most part. It is a process. And, with reoccurring offenders, the situation may feel hopeless. Depending upon the seriousness of the offense (if it is domestic violence, please call the police and/or seek a shelter), time apart may be required.
When trust has been eroded, there has to be a prayerful choice whether or not to continue the friendship at the same level of intimacy. We are told to be wise as serpents. And I wouldn’t venture to say that forgiveness (attitude of the heart) means privileges should be restored and/or consequences shouldn’t be followed. If a friend/child steals from you, change your passwords, lock up your purse, etc.
Possibly I’ve delved into the extreme and many of the reasons why we, as people, tend to think that our case is the exception to the rule. As one of my friends says, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean you get my checkbook.”
In 1 Corinthians the church is busted for not correcting the dude who was sleeping with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5). They were instructed to deal with him by excommunication. When he repented, the church was chided for not taking him back (2 Corinthians 5:11).
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation and that mission should always remain at the forefront of our minds and prayer life.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Questions for Further Thought:
- What is your impression of this passage?
- Have you struggled with forgiveness?
- Further Study: I encourage you to look up the following verses from which the text is based.
- Ephesians 4:32
- Matthew 18:21-35
- Philippians 4:8
- 1 Corinthians 13
- Romans 5:11
- James 3:13-18