This week, we are honored to hear from Luke Anderson, one of Riverwood's elders.
This week, our one another is "forgive." In Ephesians 4, Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, describing the New Self in Christ: how we throw off the old self and put on Jesus' righteousness. This New Self means we have to handle the issue of forgiveness in a radical way:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
It is tempting to tell you to just go read all the Christ-like attributes starting in verse 17 of Ephesians 4 and leave it at that, letting God’s word do the rest. 😊 After all, God's word is a living document His Holy Spirit uses to work in and through us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Spirit convicts and prompts us to obedience, to conform us more into the perfect image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
However, it would be completely disingenuous to pretend "forgive one another" is an easy command to follow and constantly live, or even accept the command and execute it purely by our own will. Because forgiveness implies that wrong has been done. It acknowledges we have experienced pain and injustice. Which means forgiveness hits on a super deep level. To fully forgive someone who has wronged me, I need to release control. I need to surrender that control to God.
But at the surface level, it seems that we, the wronged person, get penalized twice over!
Where is the win? Where is the upside to me, the wronged individual? Where is the justice?!?
The justice is purely in God’s grace for us. It says it right there at the end of verse 32: “as God in Christ forgave you.” We are all sinners who have sinned against Him (Romans 3:23). However, in Romans 5:8, we see Christ died for us, even when we were still enemies of God. Forgiveness acknowledges that sin is in this world and in our hearts, not just the person who wronged us. Despite that wrong, we as believers are to surrender the right for anger and justice and lay it at Christ's feet: the same way Christ died for us and paid the price for our sins.
Forgiveness is hard and at times very painful. Many times, it cannot be done by our own power. This is where God is so gracious. He does not leave His people to suffer alone. He is good and loving. We should not lean on our own strength, but lean onto Christ's strength in order to extend the same grace, because forgiveness is an opportunity to bless and live out our salvation.
If you need help and encouragement in this area of your life, I would encourage you to reach out to me, one of the other elders, or a close friend within the church family. God often answers our prayers of help through fellow believers. God never leaves us alone, and He wants you to be free by forgiving one another.
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