By Published On: August 31st, 2022Categories: Leader Blog, Meditation for Preparation0 Comments

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

READ: Colossians 3:12-17

When I counsel women, this is something I frequently hear: “I don’t know if I can forgive them. What does forgiveness mean, anyway?” Most of the time I am walking them through forgiving a husband, maybe a parent. Sometimes I am counseling them in forgiving the church.

It stinks. Our brothers and sisters can hurt us deeply. Disappoint us. Reject us. Forget us. I’d bet there’s not one of us who loves the church that hasn’t also been hurt by it. Paul (and Jesus) had very serious expectations for the church. So do we. I might dare to say that our expectations for the church are way higher than those we have for unbelievers.

Although the Holy Spirit moves and breathes through this body of sinners, we cannot perform to those expectations. What’s happened to you here (or in other churches)? Were you shamed? Left alone in your sorrow? Were you given bad counsel or gossiped about? Or maybe you saw others get hurt. You’ve seen people leave out of petty quarrels. You’ve seen the church divide over racism, COVID, politics, and scandals. I would bet there are even some of you just on the cusp of leaving. I’ve been there.

And yet, God expects us to forgive.

Dear Jesus, forgiveness is so hard.

“I know,” He says. “It took nails and thorns and a cross on a hill for forgiveness to be possible. But now it IS possible. Watch me forgive. I’ll show you how.”

No one has been hurt by the church like Jesus. The people that He created disappointed him, angered him, abandoned him, and killed him. His forgiveness was layered in tears and blood and labored breathing. Even when it meant taking the full wrath of the all-righteous Father, he would not lose a single sheep. And when He rose to life, He restored them into his fellowship and promised them life with Him forever. He promised never again to look at their sin. To pray for them and bless them. He forgave them before they even knew they needed forgiving.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

This was done for you. Are you willing to follow His example? To give your whole heart to it and work toward restoration? To let the sin fall into the sea? Pray for the ones who hurt you, even to bless them? Forgive even when they don’t ask for it?

Let’s take a different angle. Let’s consider the fact that not one of us will enter God’s presence having been the perfect church member. There are a myriad of ways to hurt each other, and no one stays clean. Paul was instructing every member of the church to forgive because every member of the church was going to need to be forgiven.

Do you know your own record of wrongs?

The Lord did not help me write this without a hard look at myself. I’ll confess it. I have failed you, Church. I have said unfeeling things. I have judged you. Expected perfection. Spoken untrue words. Neglected you when you hurt. Ignored you when it wasn’t convenient to see you. I have refused to confront your sin. I have sometimes withheld my love, sometimes given love in favoritism. I have gossiped. I have hidden behind a leader-type exterior and served you out of pride and not humility. I have complained in my heart and aloud. I am unworthy to be in His church.

Will you forgive me?

I have been blessed by so many of you who, through my 21 years here, have shown me that grace. And in those moments, as I think about the ones who have borne with this sister along her sanctification journey…I find myself more in love with the church. I decide to ride it out a while longer. I feel protective of you. I feel thankful for the honor of being here. And I give myself once again to the hard work of loving, serving, and forgiving.

This gift of forgiveness—receiving and giving—this is miraculous.

Can we, brothers and sisters, bear with each other in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice? In the light of how others have borne with us–our quirks, faults, and sins? Say, yes! Yes, we can! We are people of the Spirit, empowered to do this! Such acts of love are beautiful, God-glorifying moments. They are offerings to our God, our church, and ourselves. They shine light in a world that lives in the darkness of grudges and revenge.

Holy Father, Son, and Spirit, may peace rule in our hearts, unifying and healing us, to your glory, and to the good of this hostile world. May we spread forgiveness like rain on dry, cracked ground. This is your way. Help us to walk it. Amen.