Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Colossians 3:12-14, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (MSG)
Jimmy’s temper got out of control at a party and he ended up becoming loud and embarrassing to his wife Lisa. The next morning he felt bad and asked her to forgive him. She said she would, yet she kept bringing it up. One day in discouragement he said, “I thought you were going to forgive and forget.” She said, “I have, I just don’t want you to forget that I have forgiven and forgotten.”
Now, before you judge her too harshly and hastily, ask yourself an honest question requiring an honest answer: Do I “forgive and forget” just like that? A forgiveness that’s merely lip service because your heart doesn’t genuinely and sincerely, mean it? Well, I’m here to tell you that that is NOT biblical forgiveness for believers. And for samples of what biblical forgiveness looks like, all we need to do is look at God: “And Jesus prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And they divided His garments and distributed them by casting lots for them” (Luke 23:34 AMP); “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]” (1 John 1:9 AMP); “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 AMP); “Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3 AMP).
I find it amazing that God can forgive us like that, and yet, we that call ourselves “Christians” and “Christ-Like” act nothing like His Character. Knowing in advance, before time, all of the sins and mess we would commit and get ourselves into, and yet He still forgave and continuously forgives all of us, moment, by repentant moment! And what does He ask that we do in return? Simple. Follow His Example! Why? Because there is a biblical danger found in unforgiveness: “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15 AMP); “Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released.” (Luke 6:37 AMP).
In case you’re not getting it, you are not forgiven, UNTIL you first forgive! And let’s be honest here, are you really so perfect, blameless, sinless and spotless, with absolutely no blemishes, that you can afford to be without God’s forgiveness? I think not. And I love the way Luke puts it, "Do Not Judge, Do Not Condemn, Do Not Pronounce Guilt…INSTEAD…Acquit, Forgive, Release, Give Up, and Let It Go!" Like it or not, but if you are truly in fact a Believer, then the whole Bible is to be followed by YOU! And full, complete and total forgiveness of others is indeed a part of the Package Plan!
Listen: Keeping score only works in competitive sports; however it’s disastrous in friendships and relationships. Truth is, there’s so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, that we’ll spend much of our lives learning to forgive and forget. And let’s be honest, forgetting is harder when the offence is great. Small offences can often times be forgiven and even forgotten rather quickly; bigger ones require a healing process. But until you make the decision to forgive, the process can’t even begin.
So how can you “forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you?” Paul answers that question for us in today’s text: “Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].” (Colossians 3:12-14 AMP).
I love that God addresses our BEHAVIOR! And what should our Behavior be as Believers? “Tenderhearted Pity; Mercy; Kind Feeling; a Lowly Opinion of Ourselves; Gentle Ways; Patience; Tireless and Long-Suffering; Endurance; Good Temper; Forbearing; Pardoning; Forgiving; and Loving." And like it or not, but you cannot be Unforgiving, and yet Behave Christ-Like, nor call yourself a Christian!
Remember This: You are Commanded to Forgive! I think we’ve somehow forgotten that in today’s form of church. Now we forgive and forget conditionally, not unconditionally as we have been commanded! A “Command” is defined as, “To Give an Authoritative Order; a Charge by a Superior”. In other words, this is not a Suggestion! To “Suggest” means you have the opportunity to “Think it over; consider it; and change your mind”. You do not get to think it over whether you will forgive or not, you are commanded to do so by your Superior and the command is non-negotiable! And “Non-Negotiable” is defined as, “not open for discussion, debate or modification”. So, the next time you utter the words “let me pray about it”, when it comes to forgiveness, remember this is a Non-Negotiable Command That is Not Open for Suggestion, Discussion, Debate or Modification! This is NOT about your feelings, but about your obedience! Extending forgiveness as a believer does not depend on how you feel, what emotions you’re embracing, nor is it about waiting until you’re in a better mood or have adjusted your attitude, over time. It is about receiving a Direct Order from Your Superior Who has Commanded You to Hear and Heed! You don’t get to alter the Bible because someone hurt you. Their actions are never to alter your discipline to obey.
God makes it clear, you cannot “forgive” and then bring it back up again! How do I know that? Because He COMMANDED: “forgive as quickly and COMPLETELY as the Master forgave you” “Completely” is defined as “Entirely; Absolute; and Total”. I reiterate, this Command is Non-Negotiable!
Now am I saying this is easy? NOPE! Because personally I’ve had to forgive some really hard stuff over the course of my life. But I also cannot deny the fact that I’ve had to be forgiven for much over the course of my life too. And it was not easy on either side, but it was Necessary for my Growth, Development, Maturity, Leadership, Healing, Deliverance and Even My Blessings!
As a counselor, I’ve sat across from cases where if I were in their shoes, I honestly don’t know if I could have forgiven some people and some stuff. It’s just that real. Victims forgiving their rapist and molesters; drug and alcohol addicted parents, children, spouses, siblings etc…who did and said some horrible things under the influence; the drunken driver that killed your family members; marriages that had to face infidelity and even children born during affairs; and dare we even address church hurt. And the list could go on and on forever because truthfully, saved and unsaved alike, we are still faulty, flesh and blood and we have a tendency to behave in manners that are not becoming, not just as believers, but also as human beings. Which is why, especially for the believer, we ought to daily thank God for grace and mercy. He has extended it more times than we’ve deserved it. And all of us, with one sin or another, are repeat offenders, who find ourselves back at the throne of grace again and again. None of us are perfect, and that’s not an excuse or a reason, it’s just the truth. However, as we grow in God and mature in our convictions, our long laundry list of wrongs ought to turn out right at some point! This takes time and practice, but it can be done.
Therefore, to practice this kind of forgiveness you must focus on a person’s worth, not their weaknesses. You must turn your heart away from what Was, to what Can Be. And to do that, we must always remember our Ministry: “But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].” (2 Corinthians 5:18 AMP). Well, it’s kind of difficult to hate someone and bring them into harmony with Christ at the same time! So what helps? Remembering that YOU FIRST had to be brought into harmony with God! And it’s certainly hard to point clean fingers with dirty hands! You have to remember where you were, and what you did that needed forgiveness and restoration and then likewise extend the same unto others. Remember: “And as you would like and desire that men would do to you, do exactly so to them.” (Luke 6:31 AMP). If you want to receive forgiveness…give it; if you want to receive understanding…give it; if you want to receive restoration…give it; if you want a fresh new start…give it; if you want grace and mercy…give it; if you want patience and long-suffering…give it. It’s really more simple than it is complicated…just do unto others as you would want done unto you. And no one wants to be partially forgiven. So stop being the one who partially forgives.
And even with all of that said, there will always be the one person who asks, “But why should I forgive and forget?” Simple:
1...Because God’s Word Tells You To. Challenge yourself this week and look up all the Scriptures you can find about forgive and forgiveness. Memorize a different one daily. You’ll be amazed at how softened your hard heart becomes towards others. Remember: Forgiveness is non-negotiable, meaning it is not open for discussion or up for debate. You’re commanded to do it and the Bible clearly states: “If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.” (John 14:15 AMP). However, if you attempt to say you love God and yet hate your brother or sister, the Bible has a little more to say to you: “If anyone says, “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen?” (1 John 4:20 TLB). If you love Him, you will keep His commandments, and His commandment is that you forgive quickly and completely.
Because You Yourself Will Continue to Need Forgiveness. I don’t care how wonderful you are or think you are, but as long as you remain flesh and blood, you will sin, and therefore you will continue to need forgiveness. However, the Bible has already made clear that if you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you may be, you cannot afford to be without the forgiveness of God.
2...Because You Weren’t Built to Carry the Stress that Goes with Resentment. Do you know how draining resentment is? It ages you, makes you hard and bitter, unloving, and intolerable. After all, would you want to hang out with someone who is always negative, complaining, bitter, and mean-spirited? Well, neither does anyone else. Stress kills, and so does resentment and unforgiveness. Your heart was never designed to hold hatred! So, what is your heart designed to hold? Psalm 119:11, "Your Word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You." (AMP) Your heart is to store and hold onto the Word of God. And what has the Word of God said to you? Forgive, completely and totally and quickly. In a nutshell: release it, release them and release you!"
Today is a good day to stop keeping score! Remember, we are many parts but only in one body. And whatever you do to one member, it affects the whole body! Hebrews 12:14-17, “Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.” (MSG)
Are you starting to see the real dangers found in unforgiveness? You don’t get to even see a glimpse of God because of your bitter discontent. You become one weed that ruins the whole garden. Not to mention you can find yourself like Esau, full of regret, but tears or no tears, you messed up and missed God’s blessing for all eternity. Do you really think unforgiveness is worth you paying that price?
Listen, When we keep score, we all lose because we’re fighting against our own teammates! How can we win a game while we're keeping score against one another? Therefore, no more. Determine this will be a New You! And the best way to start New, is to get rid of the Old. Today, get rid of Old attitudes of resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. Fill your heart and life with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness. You'll look better, you’ll feel better and you’ll live and be better!
Ephesians 4:26-32, "Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down. And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]. The thief [who has become a believer] must no longer steal, but instead he must work hard [making an honest living], producing that which is good with his own hands, so that he will have something to share with those in need. Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak]. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you." (AMP)
“Stop keeping score and begin being a loving person again. Smile more. Give yourself a month to just be loving, generous and kind without worrying or watching to see if every little gesture is returned. Then see what happens. It is amazing how quickly the people in your life will respond to your thoughtfulness, your tenderness, your generosity and your openness.” (Connie Podesta)
“Keeping score is for games, not friendships.” (John C. Maxwell)
“The minute you start keeping score, you’re destroying the relationship.” (Tony Robbins)
“Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping.” (Teju Cole)
“Keeping score of old scores and scars, getting even and one-upping, always makes you less than you are.” (Malcolm S. Forbes)
“Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only His child redeemed by Christ.” (Brennan Manning)
“Grace means we can put the chalk away and stop keeping score.” (Bob Goff)
“The best way to win at life is to quit keeping score.” (Susan Gale)
“Keeping score is an American pastime. We keep score in sports, academics and in the workplace. But keeping score with relationships can create problems. Great love emerges when companions can share experiences without evaluating who is ahead.” (Reed Markham, PhD)
“Fortunately, God doesn’t keep score the way we humans do. If He did, there wouldn’t be one of us still standing.” (Dr. Tim Kimmel & Darcy Kimmel)
“I know you’re thinking that you’ve finally gone too far, and you’re certain He’ll be closing the door. But you’ve got to believe the things you’ve done aren’t beyond His grace. He’s not keeping score.” (Francesca Battistelli)
“The sad truth is that most Christians spend their entire lives trying to score points with Someone who is not keeping score.” (Wayne Jacobsen)
“Your life doesn’t get more sensational when you have more followers on Twitter. That’s not what you ought to be keeping score of.” (Seth Godin)
“Grace cannot prevail…until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.” (Robert Farrar Capon)
“Relationships are about give and take; not tit-for-tat. If you’re keeping score, you’ll lose at your own game.” (Faydra D. Fields)
“We all makes mistakes, what’s the use of keeping score?”
“In the game of life, it is wise to refrain from keeping score.”
“Marriage is not a contest. Never keep score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win.”
“Happily married people know that keeping score is what unhappily married people do.” (Alisa Bowman).