Today’s Reading: Ephesians 4
I love these words from Corrie ten Boom: “When we confess our sins . . . God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. . . . God then places a sign out there that says No fishing allowed.” She is giving a unique way to describe Isaiah 43:25, which tells us something so important about God’s forgiveness. God says in that verse “I will not remember your sins.” That’s incredible when we think about God’s forgiveness of our sin.
Today in Ephesians 4, we are going to see that incredible forgiveness, that is bestowed on us, take one giant leap forward in a direction that will blow you away. Think about this. God sees the people who have cursed Him and blasphemed His name but yet have been forgiven of their sins. He never says to them, “Oh yeah, you’re the guy who said this about me” or “I remember you, you committed that sin.” Not once does God bring up our past. He chooses to never remember what we did.
Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed someone had done to her years before. But she acted as though she had never heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Barton’s reply. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”
God remembers our sin no more. That’s forgiveness. Think of the biggest sinner you know and what God’s forgiveness looks like for them. God never turns down anyone who asks to be forgiven and He never places limits on what He will forgive. How amazing is that kind of forgiveness?
Now get ready for Ephesians 4. I want you to think of the biggest sin committed against you. Someone and something that hurt you to the core. What has been the hardest thing for you to forgive? Have you ever turned down someone’s request to be forgiven? Now we take God’s forgiveness to a crazy place. Paul tells us, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Did you catch that? Forgive each other just as God has forgiven you. I know, I know, you are already thinking of the crazy list.
But it was adultery.
It was sexual abuse.
That man hit me every day.
She betrayed my confidence.
He raped me.
She stole thousands of dollars and put my family at risk.
They fired me.
These are big deals. I am not minimizing these offenses. But I don’t want you to minimize what this verse says either. Augustine said something powerful. Ponder these words: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Here is what Paul is saying—and it’s revolutionary: if God would forgive the offense, then you must forgive it. This is not a suggestion. This is the way a Christian is supposed to live. Keep in mind that Ephesians 5:1, the verse that follows Ephesians 4:32, says, “Imitate God.” Or The Message says it like this: “Watch what God does, and then you do it.”
C. S. Lewis reminds us of the why: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” When it comes to imitating God, we would love to imitate some of His attributes that would make us big-time important: His sovereignty, so no one bosses us around; His power, so we are in control; His healing so we can be adored; His teaching, so we can be stand outs; His holiness, so we can be admired. But imitate His forgiveness? Seriously?
But as Andy Stanley tells us, “In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another.”
In 1948, a group of communists led the Yŏsu Rebellion in Korea. Taking over one city, they grabbed Pastor Son Yang-Wŏn’s two sons, Matthew and John, and executed them. Before they died, the boys called on the persecutors to have faith in Jesus. Later when the communists were driven out, Chy Soon, a young man of the village, was identified as the man who fired the murderous shots that had killed the pastor’s sons. Chy Soon was convicted and sentenced to be executed. But the Pastor requested that the charges be dropped and that the boy be released to him as his adopted son. “I thank God that He has given me the love to seek to convert and adopt the enemy that has murdered my boys,” he said. The young man was adopted and accepted Jesus. Did this young man have a choice? Can you respond to that demonstration of forgiveness any other way but to accept Jesus?
All because someone forgave him as God forgives.
I am forgiven to be a forgiver.
I am forgiven to be an imitator of God.
I am forgiven to forgive as God forgives .Our reason to forgive is not because the person is forgivable or the offense is forgivable. We are to forgive because we have been forgiven. And because we are to imitate God in forgiveness. Forgiveness is not just for us but must come through us.