Monday, January 18, 2010

Forgiving One Another

Forgiving One Another

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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 ESV)

This passage builds upon Paul's call to Christians to "seek the things that are above", to keep thinking and living according to the glorious position given to them as ones who belong to Christ. His call also includes the reminder to "put to death what is earthly", to remember the darkness and despair from which Christ rescued us, and the terrible, consuming wrath of God to which we would be doomed if it were not for the sacrifice and renewing resurrection of Christ on our behalf.

What do you think? Remember an instance in your life in which a Christian hurt you or caused you to lose something valuable. The offense was real, and the offender intended the hurt or loss. What did you do? Looking back now, did your response help restore the relationship?

Paul describes specific actions and attitudes that God's Spirit longs to express in each Christian's life:

  • Compassionate hearts
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Meekness
  • Patience.

These are the actions and attitudes...what does Paul say are the results?

  • Bearing with others
  • Forgiving others.

Paul clarifies the action of forgiveness by setting Christ's forgiveness as the standard, or the manner in which we should forgive others.

And he (Jesus) said to her, “Your sins are forgiven (sent forth).” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:48-50 (ESV)

"Forgiven" means sent forth. It describes the action of releasing control, giving up rights.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 and notice the contrast between holding someone accountable for their sin and forgiving them.

What do you think? Why does Paul focus on forgiveness of others as the main result of a life changed by Christ? Wouldn't love, giving selflessly to others, be a higher goal? How about wisdom, or faith? These are all grand results of our new life in Christ. Why does Paul focus here on forgiveness of others?


"Compassionate hearts" ("bowels of mercies", KJV), means pity. From a word meaning spleen. Translated as "sympathy" in Philippians:

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

Compassion is a deep feeling of sorrow for someone else, with the desire to comfort them.

What do you think? How can you show compassion for someone who has experienced something you've not experienced? How can you avoid mouthing shallow cliche's?


"Kindness", meaning usefulness or moral excellence. From a word meaning employed or useful, to furnish what is needed.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)

Here, God's kindness is seen in His making us alive with Christ, saving us, raising us up with Him, seating us spiritually with Him in Heaven.

Kindness is active and effective. God's kindness is given without merit...even when we were dead in our sin, He called us and shaped our hearts and mind want to take hold of His Son.

What do you think? If compassion is a feeling, and kindness is an action, are they inseparable? Can I do something genuinely kind if I do not feel compassion as I do it?


"Humility", means humiliation of mind or modesty. From two words meaning depressed or humiliated in mind (literally, the midrif, the middle part of the body, between the chest and the waist, "mid-belly").

"Do nothing from rivalry (desire to defeat or hurt) or conceit (empty glorying), but in humility count others more significant (held high, excellent, kingly, supreme) than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud (those appearing high) but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5-7 (ESV)

Humility is a deeply held feeling that others are important and necessary. It is less a belief that one himself is low, but more a belief that others are high.

What do you think? Is self-confidence or self-esteem necessary before I can value others and demonstrate confidence in them?


"Meekness", meaning gentleness, softness in touch or effect.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Meekness considers others to be fragile, needing careful contact, soft words and soothing action. Even confrontation with those in sin must be gentle, as if the situation could easily be reversed and the restorer could become the offender, needing confrontation in turn.

What do you think? Does meekness trump assertiveness? Does Paul's harsh criticisms mean he had to set meekness aside?


"Patience", meaning longanimity ("long-spirit", forbearance or fortitude. From a word meaning long enduring temper, leniancy, able to interact with others without rushing to passion or violence (literally, breathing hard).

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:22-24 (ESV)

Patience is the ability to withhold wrath in order to allow kindness. Wrath destroys, mercy brings life. We do not know which among all the sinners of the world are the ones "prepared beforehand for glory". We do not know who God is calling to repentence and conversion. We might let loose "righteous indignation" and angrily humiliate and terminate all association with someone whom God is bringing to Himself. Human wrath does not accomplish God's purposes.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20 (ESV)
What do you think? I personally cannot thing of a single time when my anger resulted in good. Can you?
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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 ESV)

Suffering loss or pain at the hand of a fellow believer is an opportunity to experience God's glory. The supremely joyful experience of being forgiven by God can be shared with others by demonstrating the same kind of forgiveness. By remembering God's mercy, I am filled with His Spirit of forgiveness for those who sin against me.