Think about this. Because of our sin, God, because of his love for us, elected himself to forgive us. He chose to be trampled upon. He reached out and said I want you and to prove it, he said I’m willing to die for you.
God said, “I know what you’ve done. You aren’t my friend. You are my enemy. But because of my Son Jesus Christ, I’ve put my wrath and anger on Him. Which means I’ve put your guilt behind me. I’ve dealt with that. You are forgiven. You are the one I want.
Biblically we know that in our relationship with Christ, God demonstrates forgiveness by electing to love first.
So now, get practical. How does that work in our personal relationships? If you are the offended, how do you elect to love freely the one who offended you? Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches along these lines with one of my favorite quotes: If you have ever really forgiven somebody – you know that all forgiveness is suffering. If you say I forgave and I didn’t suffer – than it wasn’t that serious a wrong. But if you have ever really truly been wronged – (Bonhoeffer says) and you have forgiven it…you have suffered…because all of forgiveness is a form of suffering.
Why is that? Forgiveness means putting yourself in a place of weakness. But this is why so many of us struggle with forgiveness to our enemies. We know putting ourselves in a place of weakness may lead to our being crushed. But the opposite is true: If you don’t forgive, if you don’t put the past behind you, if you can’t start fresh you will be crushed.
Forgiveness is not just the avoidance of wishing ill upon a person. Forgiveness in the heart also means you ‘will their good’ and you want what’s best for them. Forgiveness is suffering. It’s absorbing the pain. But now ask yourself, if forgiving others is suffering for us, what must it of been like for Christ to forgive others by going to the Cross? St. Paul tell us in his letter to Titus what Jesus forgave in us: At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Back in verse 4 it says that God our Savior ‘appeared’ which means became visible. When Christ when he went to the cross, God’s ethic of love and forgiveness become visible for all the world to see. Notice God did not remain in Heaven saving us from afar. He came to us. He came into the very thick of our problems. But why would God forgive us? Because in our core we are really good people? No.
Again, St. Paul tells us…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
This is why we say, Yes, it is possible for us to love and forgive our enemies. And why? Because we see what Jesus forgave in us. People say they struggle with forgiveness because of some injustice done to them. Paul’s answers by saying look at the God who forgave us in Christ. On the Cross Christ suffered the ultimate injustice. Jesus was pierced for us. He was crushed / He was forsaken / He was whipped and spat on / His arms were nailed wide open…so that when you come to the cross you have to be received. They’ll never be closed.