Choosing Forgiveness 3

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV).

As we previously saw in Philemon 1-3, choosing to forgive is based upon God’s prior choice to forgive us unto salvation. It is only with this prior foundation, that the believer in Christ can build a life characterized by forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a conscious choice. It involves not only what we choose “not to do” in response to our hurts from other people, but also what we “are to do.” Ephesians 4:31-32 encapsulates these two categories of choices.

What choices are believers not to make in response to people’s hurtful behavior? Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

What are believers in Christ to choose in response to hurtful behavior by other people? Paul lists three behaviors and attitudes that directly contrast the previous six: kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness.

“Be kind to one another.” In contrast to bitterness, believers are to respond obediently to God’s command to personally and presently extend gracious love to those who are undeserving.

Additionally, believers are to be “tenderhearted.” This means to be affectionate and compassionate. To respond with godly love instead of retribution.

Finally, to forgive.  This means to graciously pardon. To cancel the debt and to send it away.

The basis for behaving in such an uncommon way in response to hurts is because God in Christ forgave us. To give the exhortation greater weight, Paul holds out the example of God, who has forgiven us in Christ. God’s forgiveness is far greater than any mortal man can extend to his brethren.

In putting this issue into some practical perspective, when have you ever been bitter, angry and verbally abusive of someone?  Who was it? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinful behavior? Have you forgiven the individual whose sinful behavior resulted in your own sinful response?

To whom do you need to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving today? This upcoming week?

Pray for God’s strength to “put off” sinful behavior and to “put on” righteousness.