One thing I love about the character of God is that we do not have to beg and beg and keep on begging, hoping He’ll forgive. He wants to forgive us far more than we want to be forgiven! I am firmly convinced of that, and I am thankful every day that He forgives.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5).

We often struggle with the idea of God’s forgiveness because we struggle with forgiving ourselves. When we’re grieved over whatever boneheaded thing we’ve done, we transfer those feelings to God and assume He has a hard time forgiving us too. It just ain’t so.

But there is a “catch.” Just as God has forgiven us, He calls us to forgive others. Let’s admit it: we struggle with that sometimes. And that may be another reason we struggle with the idea of God’s forgiveness. If we have difficulty forgiving someone, we assume God has difficulty forgiving us too.

Being forgiven by God is an option. We can hold on to our sin, not seek God, and remain unforgiven. Here’s my number one life hack: Don’t do that! Turn from your sin and embrace God’s forgiveness.

If you exercise the option and come to Christ, He forgives. But with His forgiveness comes something that is not optional: We are to forgive others even as Christ has forgiven us!

“And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:32).

I’ve known people over the years who were the exception to that command. At least they thought so.

  • “I just can’t forgive what happened.”
  • “I’ll forgive when …”
  • “I know I’m supposed to forgive, but …”

Jesus was pretty blunt about this—with no exceptions.

“But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses” (Matt. 6:15).

It’s not that God is incapable of forgiving, but as long as we hold on to unforgiveness, we’ve got no room in our hearts for God’s forgiveness.

The apostle Paul said something interesting about forgiveness. There was someone in the Corinthian church who had sinned. This person may have been the same person who had committed sexual sin with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1) or someone who led a revolt against the authority and teaching of Paul. There are strong arguments both ways, but the bottom line is we just don’t know. Paul gave no details, and he didn’t need to. The church knew the incident Paul was referring to without hashing through the details again.

What is important is what Paul told the church to do in response to his repentance: forgive. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Paul pointed out that their punishment had been sufficient. It had apparently worked, the individual had repented, and now it was time to forgive and restore.

“As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him” (2 Cor. 2:7-8).

Hopefully, you see the obvious benefit of such forgiveness, but Paul pointed to another reason to forgive.

“Anyone you forgive, I do too. For what I have forgiven ​— ​if I have forgiven anything ​— ​it is for your benefit in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes” (vv. 10-11, emphasis added).

Satan loves it when unforgiveness resides in the hearts of believers. Unforgiveness among believers is a barrier to unity, it grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and it keeps us from being an effective force for the love, grace, and gospel of Christ in a world hostile to God. Unforgiveness in our hearts may be Satan’s greatest weapon. We can appear righteous (i.e., self-righteous), but our attitude toward one another is a massive deterrent to people coming to the Christ we claim to love and follow.

We’re making the work of Satan easy. When we harbor unforgiveness toward one another, we’re doing his work for him.

Let’s stop giving Satan the advantage over us and our churches. Forgive. Don’t wait until the person asks to be forgiven. Forgive. Don’t wait until you’re given an explanation on why they did what they did. Forgive. Let the love and mercy of Christ overflow out of you toward others in the church.

Let’s take this weapon out of Satan’s hands, and let’s be the church. Let’s be the body of Christ.

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