Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
We heard a message from Colossians 3 this week as we began our new series: Shaped. We’re looking at the ways God actively forms us into his image. This is discipleship. This is who we were created to be: a people in the image of the Creator.
We sang a song on Sunday called Holy Water. It’s a song about how sweet forgiveness is. It is so sweet and freeing to live forgiven, but it’s also sweet and freeing to be the forgiver. One of our necessary responses to a forgiving Savior is forgiveness, as we see in Colossians 3:13. But what if forgiving people isn’t that easy?
I have two daughters and, contrary to popular belief, they’re not perfect. They fight. They argue. They argue over some things that are…ridiculous. Ree-dic-you-lussss. Some of our favorites in the past have been: who is sitting there, who gets to push the elevator button, who has to do piano practice first, who is sitting there, who gets the last yogurt, who gets to choose the next episode, and who is sitting there.
These little spats are *usually* resolved quickly, and everyone is given the opportunity (read: forced at threat of death) to apologize and forgive. We talk about kindness with our words and actions, and we move on.
But what if the grievance is much, much bigger than that? What if the thing you’re supposed to forgive was life-altering? What if it was traumatic? What if you’re not done suffering from it? What if you just don’t feel like forgiving? It’s not always as cut and dry as Colossians 3 might make it sound. But it is as necessary as Colossians 3 implies.
Forgiveness, like Christianity, is a process. You can become a Christian in a moment. You accept Jesus’s love and forgiveness. You invite Jesus in as your Savior, King, and Friend. Boom. You’re a Christian. But all Christians know it doesn’t stop there. That’s what this Shaped series is all about. You don’t just become Christian. You keep becoming Christian. (From the Greek – Christos, meaning “anointed one” and the Latin suffix – ianus, meaning “belonging to.” So, Christian literally means “belonging to the anointed one.”) When you belong to Jesus, it happens in an instant, but the relationship grows and deepens for the rest of your life.
When you forgive someone, the process can start immediately. You can say the words. You can even really mean it. But when the trauma is deep, or the impact of their trespass is still being felt, forgiveness is going to end up being a real commitment. It’s a commitment to growth. It’s a commitment to getting healthy. It’s a commitment to finding our value and definition in Christ rather than in the person or incident we’re trying to forgive.
Forgiveness is work.
The good news, though: this is not something we’re expected to do on our own. God has gifted us with his Holy Spirit because we are not strong enough to forgive deep traumas and just turn our backs and pretend they never existed. We’re going to need the Spirit’s help, guidance, wisdom, strength, and perseverance as whatever we’re called to forgive raises its ugly head again and again.
But if we don’t actively choose forgiveness, we will live with this roadblock in our chest, in our brain, in our life and eventually we’re going to run into it. It will keep us from fully becoming who we were created to be, and from fully embracing the love-laden plan God has for us. Forgiveness is a necessary part of being shaped into the image of the Forgiver.
So settle in. This forgiveness is going to take time. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take love love love love love. But you are not alone, and you have been called to this. Let the Spirit guide you and your church family walk with you as you are led to forgive.