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Pastor's Desk

Opportunities as We Exit Social Isolation Part 4

Forgiveness

Opportunity for Forgiveness

This is the fourth of five articles focused on specific opportunities that Christians will have as our country and churches emerge from social isolation. The previous articles address the opportunities to show our true citizenship (read here), to practice patience (read here), and to show humility (read here). Another area of growth for believers, that this unique time will present us with, is in the area of forgiveness.

The exit from social isolation will provide the church with ample opportunity to forgive others. It’s not too difficult to see why this is the case. Currently, fear is flourishing; stress is rising; dissatisfaction is mounting. Nothing feels normal. I have both personally experienced and known of many others who have reached the emotional and psychological limits of this new lifestyle. Such an atmosphere is bound to foster hurtful language, anger, and general snappiness. For others who have thrived in isolation, the thought of stepping back into society cultivates those same feelings. It is inevitable: we are going to sin against one another.

Then there are the varying opinions each of us has concerning this virus, our government’s handling of this pandemic, and what is socially acceptable within the public. As Americans, we don’t just hold our opinions. We share them, and we share them loudly. There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion or sharing it, but I would not be surprised that in that process, we might hurt, belittle, offend, or even slander others. Opportunities for forgiveness are sure to abound.

The Importance of Making Things Right

Often forgiveness is looked at from the perspective of the one being called to forgive another. This is understandable—personal hurts are difficult to overcome. Equally important, though, is the call to the offender. True flourishing involves pursuing peace in personal relationships (Matt 5:9), and Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Christians pursue peace, especially if they are the offending party.

Jesus placed a priority on pursuing peace in personal relationships with his surprising instruction in Matthew 5:23-24: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” The principle is simple; if our actions have disrupted a relationship with a member in the body of Christ, we are to pursue reconciliation.

Inevitably during our reemergence to society and church, we will sin against others. We will disrupt our relationships, many times, unintentionally. As we do, we must seek to make things right. Take Jesus’ instruction seriously. Humble yourself; admit you’re wrong; seek forgiveness. Most likely, you’ll have plenty of chances to do so over the next few months.

The Importance of Forgiving Others

Equally important as asking forgiveness for our wrongdoing is our granting forgiveness to those who ask. Get your heart in the right place—a place ready to forgive. Do that now because any number of situations will require forgiveness during this unique time. Hurtful words will be unleashed; sinful attitudes will be expressed; disregard will be displayed. Be ready to forgive.

True glory comes in forgiveness (cf. Prov 19:11) because forgiveness follows the pattern of our Lord (Eph 4:32-5:2). Christ’s example of forgiveness motivates our call to forgiveness (Col 3:13). It not only motivates, but enables forgiveness. He forgave us; therefore, we forgive others. If we fail to forgive others, we should question whether or not we have been forgiven (Matt 18:21-35). A forgiven person forgives people.

The circumstances of these times are the perfect storm for sin to thrive in personal relationships. We will be on both the receiving side and the distributing side of sin. As believers, we have a great chance to redeem these moments for God’s glory. Will we forgive and ask for forgiveness? Don’t miss the opportunity laying in front of you.

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