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  • Mark Clarke

Love and Forgiveness

Here is the painful truth: Love and forgiveness go hand in hand. If you don't believe that, then close your Bible and call it a day because that is exactly what the cross of Jesus did for all of us. Jesus proved that real love is the kind of love that forgives. Forgiveness restores and renews hope. Unforgiveness breeds and feeds doubt, insecurity, anger and bitterness. At the same time.. forgiveness is not easy. Some of the most self-proclaimed "mature Christians" cannot forgive the smallest infractions on their trust or happiness bubble. Yet, Christian maturity can be easily determined by how quick a person is able to forgive.

None of us will ever reach the "I have arrived" category when it comes to forgiveness. If we can admit it, we would all agree that not forgiving someone costs each of us a great deal more emotional effort and brainwork. We have to relive the offense and nurse it in our hearts and minds randomly and repeatedly. Sometimes this self-harming practice goes on for months or even years depending on the depth of the hurt. Even Jesus pointed out the fact that there are various levels of forgiveness in Luke 7:47-48 NLT: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Overcoming unforgiveness is not easy, this is why the Scriptures harp on the subject so much. Some unforgiveness can only be overcome by allowing God to work in and through your heart to forgive the person. God's Word provides the best advice and real-life examples of how to overcome unforgiveness. The following verses have tweaked me often over the years and have helped me progress in the area of forgiving others:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 NLT

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT

“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 NLT

In that last set of verses Paul points out something that we often forget. The bait to harbor unforgiveness can sometimes be a scheme set up by Satan to damage our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 warns, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT). Think about that statement. If your heart determines the course of your entire life, then any relationship you have could be at risk by your heart's condition and an issue you have with one individual.

This may sound far fetched but have you ever gotten really upset with someone and another person comes along who genuinely loves you and speaks to you while you are still heated? Perhaps you come back at them the wrong way and they were like "are you OK?" Although you have a great relationship with this person it could be at risk because of your attitude towards the other person. Your damaged heart causes these things to spill over into your healthy relationships. The person with whom you have a great relationship knows nothing of the other situation and they may feel that you have something against them.. and on and on it goes. From this example you can see how unforgiveness is like a "relationship cancer". As Paul pointed out, your heart condition "determines the course of your whole life.”

If we surrender our will to the authority of Christ and His written commands, we can forgive. The question is not "can we?" but "will we?" God has every blood-bought, redeemed follower of Jesus cornered with His obstinate appeal to forgive as a requirement to receive forgiveness. At the same time, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 2:10 shares his secret of just how forgiveness is always possible (remember, with God all things are possible - Matthew 19:26). Paul says, "I do so with Christ’s authority."

Just think of all the blessings we can experience by forfeiting our flawed relational ways for God's ways. On the other side of forgiveness we see God's outstretched arms waiting to forgive our own sins and flawed mindset. On the other side of forgiveness is the power to restore relationships, rekindle love and re-join families.

God says, "break down that wall, cross that line, and do for someone else what I have, and will do for you over and over again."

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