But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The First Fruit: Love (Continued...)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes, and nearly everyone you love will wrong you in some way, even if it's minor. So unless we are willing to forgive, we cannot truly love. If God wants us to LOVE like He does, He also wants us to FORGIVE like He does.
How does the Lord forgive?
...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)
He forgets what's been done. He doesn't bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out. He doesn't keep counting wrongs. But most of all, He doesn't live in denial, either. It's not like He buries the memory deep inside so it can be brought up again next time, like an old wound. No, He forgets it completely as though it had never happened. This is how we can wrong God over and over - and yet He still forgives us.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)
His forgiveness is limitless. No matter how many times we do Him wrong, He not only forgives it, but He's not keeping count. And He expects the same from us.
If God is all-knowing, how can He forget?
He chooses to. And with his power, we can choose to forgive and forget as well. We can choose to hold a grudge instead, but it will eat away at us while the person we hold a grudge against goes on with their lives as if nothing happened. It makes no difference whether they know we forgive them or not. Or even if they've asked for forgiveness.
This is about us. How will we live? Do we want to live a life of bitterness and anger, holding on to grudges? Or do we want to live a life of love and peace, letting grudges go and forgetting them?
“It is finished!” (John 19:30)
When Jesus had finished paying our debts on the cross, He gave us a clean slate. Our sins were paid in full and our wrongs against Him completely forgotten. He was free to love us completely. In order to pay for our sins, He gave His life.
What are we willing to give up to be free to love the way God loves?
Can we give up our hurts, our bitterness, our anger at being wronged, and perhaps even our pride? According to Jesus, we cannot even love God the way we want to love Him if we have bitterness in our hearts or know that someone has bitterness against us:
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
So if our hearts are preoccupied with making sure no one ever does us wrong again, we're too busy protecting ourselves to produce the kind of love that is a fruit of the Spirit. Only by forgiving the way that He forgives us can we produce this fruit. And that is my prayer for us today. With God's help, let us learn to truly forgive and forget.