This has been some time in the writing… In April, as I contemplated the death and resurrection of our Lord and pondered the forgiveness extended to us, I was reminded of something the Lord gave me from His Word some time ago. Colossians 3:13 was the call for me to consider this subject. This verse instructs me to forgive others as Christ forgave me. But how did Christ forgive me? Though there are more, the Lord gave me four concise answers to this question.
1. He forgave all my sin. There is no sin too dreadful for Him to forgive. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 – emphasis added) He does not even hold one aspect of my sin against me. He forgave me fully.
2. His forgiveness was unconditional. God does not require that I make amends for my sin (nor could I ever do so) in order to receive His forgiveness. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-14) He has forgiven us all trespasses, not because we in some way made up for them, but because He blotted out the accusation against us, taking our sentence upon Himself.
3. He extended His forgiveness to me without my asking for it. Christ paid the price for my sin and extended His forgiveness to me when I was His enemy. Romans 5:6-8 states, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (emphasis added)
4. He forgave me though I never would nor could fully understand the suffering He endured because of my offense. Scripture does not record all the agony (either physical or emotional) through which Christ passed as He hung on the cross. All I get is a glimpse… and forgiveness. At the epitome of His suffering, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” This cry we, who have not known what it is to be perfectly united to God, can never fully understand.
And now, we are instructed to forgive in like manner. Forgiving the offenses committed against us is not generally easy. We find “legitimate reasons” for withholding forgiveness. “They show no remorse over having offended me; they didn’t ask for forgiveness.” No, but God paved the way for our forgiveness before we even thought of asking for it, long before we repented. “They don’t understand how much that offended me.” Neither do we understand the degree to which we have offended God, yet He forgave us.
The truth is this: For one to receive forgiveness, there needs to be an asking for it. For a broken relationship to be fully restored, there needs to be both an asking and a granting of forgiveness. However, for one to extend forgiveness (in other words to forgive the offender in one’s heart so that if a request for forgiveness does eventually come, we can reveal the forgiveness that long before had dislodged any feeling of bitterness harboured there), the offender does not need to have asked for it. We knew nothing of God’s forgiveness until we sought it and received it, yet, He had chosen beforehand to forgive. And now, having received His perfect forgiveness, we must not withhold the same from our fellow men.