“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
The Cost of Forgiveness
Forgiveness does not come easy. Jesus died for our forgiveness. There was a price paid. When we go back the Old Testament, a sacrifice was offered for sin. You would take an innocent lamb. The lamb had not done anything, but your sin would cost that lamb his life.
When you entered into the temple, you would sense death. You would hear the lambs being slaughtered. You would smell the flesh being burned. You would see the blood draining off the altar. It was rather grotesque. It was a powerful visual reminder of the consequence of sin.
It is different for us today. The religious ritual of forgiveness is much cleaner. We confess our sins in the presence of God. The pastor announces words of absolution. You might make the sign of the cross from your head to your heart and shoulder to should. There is no fire or blood.
Then we approach the altar. We receive in the bread and wine, the very body and blood of Jesus. But it does not look like flesh or blood. It looks like bread and wine. It tastes like bread and wine. When we receive these, the pastor says, “take eat and take drink for the forgiveness of your sins.” Again, everything is neat and clean!
But remember what is behind these acts. It is the sacrifice of Jesus. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His sacrifice on the cross was hideous. If you ever watched the movie the Passion of Christ, you start to get a sense of the horror. Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Grace is free, but it is not cheap.” Indeed the free gift of forgiveness came at a tremendous cost. It came because of the innocent, bitter suffering and death of Jesus.
We Forgive as God has Forgiven Us
When we read Ephesians 4:32, we read that we are to forgive one another. It is not easy to forgive. There is sacrifice involved. Anyone who says forgiveness is easy has never truly forgiven. It is easier to hold on to bitterness and grudges than it is to forgive. But it is through forgiveness that we experience freedom. It is freedom from sin that enslaves and freedom to experience fulfillment in our relationships.
Forgiveness is critical for relationships. I am a sinner, and you are a sinner. We have that in common. If we spend enough time with each other, there will come a time when I will sin against you, and you will sin against me. We are human. It is part of our nature, and there is no getting around that. If we are going stay in relationship, we must learn to forgive one another. Otherwise, there will be a wedge that is driven among us. A divide will hinder true intimacy. We will go our separate ways and move on to one superficial relationship after another.
Forgiveness is a bridge. It is sin that divides, but forgiveness that unites. The forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross was so that we could live in relationship with God. It was so that we could know God. It was so we could approach his throne of grace in prayer. It was so that we could stand before him in eternity.
The forgiveness of Jesus also empowers our forgiveness. When we recognize the tremendous debt we have been forgiven, we see how insignificant the things we are unwilling to forgive. Our sacrifice to forgive may be difficult, but our sacrifice pales in comparison to the great sacrifice Jesus made to forgive us.
- Why is forgiveness so difficult?
- Is there anyone you need to reach out to and forgive?
- Is there anyone you need to ask their forgiveness.