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Forgiveness and Reconciliation

April 16, 2018

“Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you,” (Col. 3:13, NASB).

It is very easy for us, as God’s people, to begin to hold grudges and hold past sins against people. We can have this sense that, “Although I can forgive, I cannot forget.” We need to think about this passage of forgiveness. It follows Paul’s teaching about the believer putting off the old self and putting on the new self made after the image of Christ. As a result, all are one in Christ. He says, “A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Since we are new creations in Christ, old things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the basis for forgiving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If anyone would have had a right to hold someone’s past sins against them, it would have been the early church against Paul. When we find him in Acts 9, we read, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem,” (Acts 9:1-2). Paul was actively persecuting the church, he was breaking up families, and was full of hatred for God’s people. Then Christ saved Him. He became a new creation in Christ, and went from hateful persecutor to Gentile Church founder. We find the Church afraid of him at first, not convinced he was converted. But Barnabas steps in and introduces him to the apostles, and the rest is history.

Further, Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. In Judges 19-20, we read about some incredible wickedness that takes place in Benjamin. As a result of the tribe’s rebellion, a civil war breaks out in Israel. Although Benjamin is defeated, they had caused much trouble to the rest of the nation.

It is interesting to note, that none of this ever comes up from the apostles in regards to their reception of Paul. In fact, after Barnabas introduces Paul to the apostles, we never hear the Church ever bring up any of his past offenses ever again. Apparently they understood what it means to be a new creation in Christ and to have our debt of offenses cancelled by being nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). The only hesitation they demonstrated was over whether or not he had truly been born again. Once this was validated, they never brought up any of Paul’s past sins, nor those of his tribe. What do you think Paul would have said to someone who demanded that he continually try to make up for the sins of the tribe of Benjamin? What do you think he would have said to those who said they could not have peace with Paul because of sins he committed in his life before he was converted?

In the Church, we must demand of ourselves that we think in line with the Bible. If the Bible says that someone is a new creation in Christ, and that old things have passed away, and that any of the offenses that stood against them have been nailed to the cross, how dare we demand that they continually repent for sins of the old man, or of their “tribe”. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Does Christ demand that we continually walk around beating ourselves for sin that He paid for on the cross? Or does He demand that we walk in the freedom of complete forgiveness knowing that by grace we have been declared righteous (1 John 1:9, Rom. 8:1)? It is sad indeed, that in the Church we are allowing unforgiveness to reign supreme, and are attempting to make it consistent with the Gospel. It is not the way we are called to live in Christ.

May God grant us to repent of harboring hatred towards any of our brothers and sisters. May we recognize that they are saved the same way we are; through the infinitely valuable death of the Son of God on our behalf. Is Christ not enough? Does our brother have to do more than Christ did to win his forgiveness from you? If so, then you must repent. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. We have been forgiven freely by the grace of God in Christ. How dare we demand more than this.

From → Theology

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