Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).
The message of the Bible is forgiveness.
There is a caveat, though, as we must forgive as we have been forgiven to walk in the full blessing of forgiveness.
To make sure that we understand this message of forgiveness, it’s emphasized several times in the New Testament.
The Apostle Paul repeats his instruction on forgiveness in Ephesians 4 with a similar statement in Colossians 3:13 . . .
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Jesus gives the same message of forgiving but adds something in Matthew 6:14 . . .
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Paul tells us to forgive because we are forgiven, but Jesus adds that the heavenly Father will forgive us only if we forgive others.
I believe we are forgiven or justified when we accept Jesus, but to receive the full healing power of forgiveness found in the gospel, we need to emulate our forgiveness by forgiving others.
If we don’t forgive others, we aren’t living in the fullness of grace, mercy, and resultant peace.
I’ve met believers who love singing Amazing Grace at church on Sunday but are mean as snakes the rest of the week. As a result, they don’t have peace in their relationships with others, themselves, and God.
They are not experiencing the full blessing of forgiveness!
Forgiveness means releasing.
When God forgives, He releases the penalties that we deserve (mercy) and gives us blessings that we don’t deserve (grace). If we don’t forgive, our anger builds to a toxicity of the soul from our not releasing grace and mercy.
And then others don’t give us grace or mercy either.
Lack of forgiveness means losing our peace. Not a good way to live – always angry, always blaming, and always fuming.
What steps can we take to walk in the full blessing of forgiveness?
First: Take the first step. If you are unsettled with another person, go to them first, even if it’s their fault.
Second: Know this step of forgiveness. Just as God released the penalties of sin from our lives, we need to say, “Lord, because you forgave me, I release this sin against me to You. I will love my enemy as You loved me.”
Third: Watch your step. Angry people attract one another. These relationships become a crowd-sourcing cause of bitterness multiplication. No grace and no mercy — just gossip, slander, and vendettas.
Unless we are speaking God’s grace, let’s stay away from angry people. Why allow their unforgiving attitude to steal our peace?
Let’s take these three steps of walking in the full blessing of God’s forgiveness.