“He that demands mercy, and shows none, ruins the bridge over which he himself is to pass.”
The fifth petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” is the banner around which the Christian community gathers. Christ bought us with his own blood, a testimony of his love for us. This is the cost of forgiveness. Now Christ binds us together in his love that we might be the community of forgiveness.
The apostle Paul fleshes out for us the implications of belonging to such a community. He writes to the Colossians, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13) This is Paul’s two-pronged attack against the subtle spirit of discontent and unforgiveness that seeks to cripple individuals and churches. The phrase “bearing with one another” illustrates not the danger of overt sin but rather the church’s need to overcome potentially divisive differences in personality. Small fissures in the wall of love soon develop into a flood of problems if not taken care of immediately. Curtis Vaughn notes, “‘bear with’ suggests the thought of putting up with things we dislike in others.” (Expositor’s Bible Comm. Vol. 11, 215) This ‘putting up with’ is part of what it means to belong to the community of forgiveness.
The second key phrase in Paul’s admonition is “forgiving each other.” A few powerful, biblical synonyms for “forgive” are: blot out, cast away, and cover over. Take a moment and insert these synonyms into the verse above. Is that the way you treat your brother or sister in Christ? Do you blot out past grievances or nurse them? Do you cast away complaints and cover over small areas of disagreement? Your answer to these questions will reveal the vitality of your life in Christ. To live with Christ is to fully forgive those who have wronged us just as God has fully forgiven us in Christ. Thomas Watson concludes, “Our forgiving others is not a cause of God’s forgiving us, but it is a condition without which he will not forgive us.” (The Lord’s Prayer, 214) Have a blessed week and we will see you on Sunday.
Love in Christ,