Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
The climate in our nation today is one of unforgiveness. The current trend is to openly criticize and condemn. Instead of trying to build people up in a positive way, we are looking for ways to cut people down. This is not confined to one group; it is an epidemic that has infected most of our public discourse. As followers of Christ, how are we to respond?
There are several passages of scripture that speak directly to this situation. The first is Matthew 7:1-5.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
Jesus made it clear that taking a condemning stance toward others only makes matters worse. He reminds us that the way we treat others will dictate how they respond to us. It seems that people are oblivious to this fact today. They openly criticize others, yet are offended when they are criticized in return. Jesus called for honest self-evaluation before a person tried to correct another. There are things in everyone of our lives for which we need forgiveness. By taking an honest look in the mirror, we will approach others with greater humility and compassion.
At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus stressed just how important forgiveness really is.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:12,14-15
Jesus sets a condition upon our receiving forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. The measure of forgiveness that we can receive is directly in proportion to the measure of forgiveness we offer to others. In one sense God’s forgiveness toward us in Christ is unconditional. Yet, in a practical way, we will continue to live under the weight of our sin if we are unwilling to forgive others. Why is this true? Because unforgiveness is a sin in itself. And as John tells us in 1 John 1:9, we receive forgiveness of our sins when we honestly confess them to God. An unwillingness to forgive others is in reality holding onto our sin. Therefore, God cannot forgive what we are unwilling to admit and relinquish.
Paul picked up the practical application of what Jesus was teaching in his letter to the Colossians. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) Our response to others is to stand in stark contrast to how the World responds. Just as God has offered us His amazing grace, we are offer that same grace to others. Instead of holding onto our resentments and offenses, we are to bear with the frailty of others and forgive them. Then just to make his point crystal clear, he states that we are to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. There is not wiggle room here for holding onto our grievances. Jesus knows all about us and yet has forgiven us. He calls us to do the same for one another.
Peter reminds us that Jesus’ words were not idealistic chatter. Jesus lived them out to the very end of His earthly life. When Jesus was unjustly condemned, He did not lash out at His enemies. Instead He forgave them.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:23-24)