What does it look like to live a forgiving (and forgiven) life? That life will be marked by these traits and you will make a habit out of these practices:
1. Make forgiveness your default response
Decide now that you will respond to a wrong with a desire to forgive. Make that your end goal from the beginning.
2. Forgive in advance, just like God does
Someone is going to hurt you. Someone is going to tear you down and say vicious untrue things about you. You don’t even know who this person is yet, but you can choose to forgive them in advance. When we do this, when we choose forgiveness even before there is repentance, all the other person has to do is accept what we’re already offering.
3. Be forgiven
In the same way, God has forgiven you and is offering that forgiveness to you. Some of you are living life in a state of being unforgiven. This is a tragedy because you can be forgiven and it would make a world of difference. How can you receive God’s forgiveness? By confessing your sins and trusting in him. That’s it.
“Father, Forgive Them”
I’ll give you one more reason to forgive… As Jesus was hanging on the cross, beaten, bruised, cut, covered in blood, he looked down at those who had done this to him. He looked at them and didn’t feel rage… he looked at them and didn’t take the vengeance on them that he could have taken. These people who had falsely accused him, imprisoned him, beaten him, put nails through his hands and feet, hung him up on a wooden cross and then taunted him while he hung…
He looked at these people, who did far more to him than anyone has ever done to any one of us and said… “Father, forgive them….” (Luke 23:33-34). And when he died, he died so that we could experience the forgiveness of God. His life and his death were saturated with forgiveness.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis
Jesus is the model and he sets the pattern for us. Even while he hung in front of his own murderers, he chose to forgive. He chose to forgive because he chose to live a life of forgiveness. He chose to forgive in that moment because he had chosen forgiveness long before that moment came.
And this is how he would have us live our lives today.
An Exercise in Forgiveness
If you take a moment to examine your life today, is it marked by the habits I mentioned above? Are you making forgiveness your default response to every offense? Are you forgiving in advance just like God does? Are you ready to forgive not just what has happened to you in the past but what will happen to you in the future as well?
If you examine your life and relationships, do they seem to be saturated with forgiveness
This post is part a series on forgiveness, based on a sermon called “Forgive and Be Forgiven”. You can listen to the sermon audio here (or right-click and “Save As…” to download)
Other posts in this series:
Part 1 – Don’t Be a Hypocrite
Part 2 – A Prayer to Be Recited?
Part 3 – Giving Up the Desire to Punish
Part 4 – Don’t Be Like the Unforgiving Servant
Part 5 – The Older Brother Syndrome
Part 6 – Living the Forgiving (and Forgiven) Life
Part 7 – What Forgiveness Isn’t…
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