If someone were to ask you to list the most important ideas in the Christian worldview, what would they be?
Maybe grace? Sacrifice? Love? Faith?
Chances are, one of the ideas you’d list would be forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. We serve a God who we once shunned. We spat in his face. This God, though, found a way to forgive. He took on the debt we owed him.
Forgiveness like this is unique to the Christian message. But if it doesn’t change our actions, it’s a message without power – thrown into the void. We ought to be a forgiving people.
Forgiveness is actually essential to being human. Without forgiveness, relationships cannot stand the test of time. The problem, though, is that some infractions are more difficult to forgive than others. And some people are more difficult to forgive than others. So while we practice forgiveness when it works in our favor, we eschew it when it’s painful.
This leads to disunity, bitterness, hate, and broken relationships. The good news for Christians is that we have an example to follow. We have someone who forgave us, even when it was most painful. He’s forgiven egregious acts and terrible people. And he’s given us the power to do the same.
If we want to call ourselves Christians, we must follow his example. Forgive, even when it’s painful.
Some, at this point, would want to give a bunch of caveats about forgiveness, because forgiveness can be dangerous. It can mean we’re taken advantage of, or that we get walked over. Honestly, I mention that because it’s my inclination as well.
But at some point we have to say, even with the dangers, forgiveness is required. At some point, we have to recognize that Christ demands a lot from us. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always safe, but it’s worth it.
To be like Christ is to be who we were created to be. And to be like Christ is to be a person of forgiveness. To forgive and forgive and forgive. To love even to the point that others think you’re crazy.
Because you know what? God is crazy. He’s crazy to love a person like me, who fails him each and every day. The least I can do is love others in the same way.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)