Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. Colossians 3:12-13
God commands his children to forgive each another. For this reason: He has forgiven our incalculable debt against him, so we should forgive those who sin against us.
Seems straight ahead and simple, right? Maybe not quite so straight ahead and simple as it seems on the surface.
We live in a fallen world, and both Christians and non-Christians sin against each other. And very often in devastating ways. Sadly, even Christians fall into horrible sin at times and it can be life shattering when you are sinned against. Sin causes anguish, sadness, and misery. So when someone sins against you, I would not say you just quickly and flippantly say, Oh well, I forgive you, that’s ok. Everything back to normal.
If someone hurts or betrays us and then asks forgiveness, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about that sin and how it hurt us. It doesn’t mean we just brush it under the carpet and move on. Sin is devastating. It can take time to get to the place where we can forgive and restore the relationship.
There have been times in the past I have been too quick to encourage people to get together with someone who has sinned against them and grant forgiveness.
And forgiveness doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences. Certain sins might even involve calling the police, even though someone repents. If I go out and irresponsibly charge $20,000 on my credit card, then ask my wife’s forgiveness, even though she forgives me, I will have to pay that money back. I’ll have consequences for a long time.
And even when we forgive someone, that doesn’t mean we must immediately trust them. Sin shatters trust. It can take a long time to earn trust again once it has been shattered.
Forgiving others takes the power of God. We can’t do it in our own strength. But Jesus can help us. If you are struggling with unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone, cry out to God to help you. Seek counsel, talk to a trusted mature Christian or your pastor. If you know someone was sinned against in a significant way, and worked through it and came to a place of forgiveness, get together with them and seek their insights.
Forgiveness and reconciliation should be a goal believers work toward for the glory of God. Colossians 3:13 says “you also MUST forgive.” Unforgiveness and bitterness aren’t options. We’re working out our lives together. I need you to forgive me when I sin against you, and I must forgive you as well because God has forgiven us in Christ.
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.