Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Why should you forgive those who have wronged you? In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw that we are to forgive others, not only in obedience to Scripture, but also because forgiveness is an expression of kindness and compassion. Yet this is not the only rationale for forgiveness in Ephesians 4:32.
This verse reads, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Notice the final phrase, “just as in Christ God forgave you.” This phrase provides a rationale for forgiveness, a model of forgiveness, and motivation for forgiveness. We could read this verse as saying, “Because God forgive you in Christ, you are to forgive each other.” You are to forgive, not because of your inherent graciousness, nor because the one who wronged you has done something to deserve forgiveness, but because of what God has done for you in Christ. You are to forgive as a response to God’s gracious forgiveness given to you through the cross of Jesus Christ. Why should you forgive others? Because God first forgave you. There’s a solid rationale for forgiveness.
The phrase “just as in Christ God forgave you” also shows us a model of forgiveness. In Ephesians 1:7-8, we read, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Similarly, Ephesians 2:4-7 reveals that even when we were dead in our transgressions, God made us alive with Christ “because of his great love for us,” and because God is “rich in mercy,” and because of “the incomparable riches of [God’s] grace, expressed in kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Forgiveness flows freely from God’s grace, mercy, and love.
So God models for us what forgiveness looks like. Plus, by forgiving us, God motivates us to forgive others. The more we take in how God has forgiven us in Christ, the more we will be encouraged to forgive others. The more we let the model of God’s forgiveness in Christ guide us, the more we will want to forgive graciously, mercifully, and lovingly. The more we experience the freedom of God’s forgiveness, the more we will be free to forgive others.
Something to Think About:
Why isn’t it okay for us to receive God’s forgiveness without also forgiving others?
Can you think of a time in your life when you were able to forgive someone because of what God had already done for you in Christ?
Something to Do:
It would make sense here to say, “Here’s something to do: Forgive someone who has wronged you.” That’s a fine suggestion. But the freedom to forgive comes, not only from obedience, but also from your experience of God’s having forgiven you. So, take some time to reflect on how God has forgiven you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you take in the wonder of God’s forgiveness. Feel the freedom and joy that come from knowing that God accepts you just as you are because of Christ.
Gracious God, how I thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that this forgiveness flows from your amazing grace and boundless mercy. Thank you for offering me forgiveness, not on the basis of my worthiness, but on the basis of Christ’s worthiness.
Help me, dear Lord, to forgive others because you have forgiven me. Help me to make the connection between what I have received from you and what you want to me give away to others. May my experience of your forgiveness set me free to forgive others graciously, for their sake and for mine, and for your glory. Amen.