Colossians 3:13 (ESV)- “…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.“
Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian Faith. When Lord Jesus was unjustly crucified, He exclaimed with his whole heart, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
Every Christian that knows the Disciples’ Prayer (The Lord’s Prayer), has been taught to say: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” When we approach our Heavenly Father to ask forgiveness for our sins, we must first forgive those who have “trespassed” against us. Unless we sincerely forgive our trespassers, God will not forgive us our sins. (Matthew 6:15; 18:35; et. al.)
When disciples of Christ feel injured by someone, the first thing that should come to mind is that we are all guilty of sin, and that at some point we too have injured others. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22) Then as quickly as possible, one should overlook the offense lest it anchors on selfish pride. (Proverbs 19:11)
Pride is the main cause for a spirit of unforgiveness. (Proverbs 13:10) If a disciple of Christ cannot overlook an offense immediately, then it is because pride has overtaken his heart. This is dangerous ground because a prideful spirit only guarantees God’s opposition. (James 4:6) Whenever a person acts in pride, he or she reminds God of the first sin ever committed. (Isaiah 14:12-15) Pride is always the precursor to a great fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
When someone has injured us, the first reaction of a disciple should be to overlook the offense. But if we are unable to automatically overlook the offense, Lord Jesus instructed us that when we pray, the first thing we must do is to sincerely forgive those who have sinned against us. (Mark 11:25)
But this isn’t a fault-proof method, because oftentimes a heart that has been stricken by pride, will superficially “forgive” its debtor while dismissing or ostracizing the person who was allegedly forgiven.
Many people claim to forgive the alleged injuries against them, and because of this, they will oftentimes claim to be in fellowship with God. But the fact of the matter is that without full restoration there is no forgiveness. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) And without full forgiveness, there is no full fellowship with God. (1 John 4:20)
Imagine if God “forgave” us the way that we oftentimes “forgive.” What if God “forgave” us our sins, but didn’t restore fellowship with us? The whole point of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins was in order to restore fellowship with God! 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
Lord Jesus gave other instructions regarding forgiveness such as to prioritize the restoration of fellowship with an offended brother before coming to worship (Matthew 5:23-24). The Lord has also left proper protocols for when it is necessary that the Christian community get involved. (Matthew 18:15-17)
But all of these instructions are SECONDARY procedures.
To forgive like Christ means to crucify our pride and forgive without prompting or preconditions. To forgive like God is to forgive our debtor with full reconciliation from the heart- with or without our transgressor’s confession of fault.
“Forgiveness” in a spirit of dismissal is merely an allegation.–jcr
If we claim to “forgive” someone, then we must act accordingly. If we act like enemies rather than brothers in Christ, then we have not forgiven. If our relationship changed for the worse…then we have not forgiven like God, who always forgives for the better. If we keep distant, the only reason for that distance is PRIDE.
If we do not forgive, God will act according to our pride and absolutely not forgive us.
This is Lord Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness… As It Is.