When was the last time that you were angry at another person? Think through the scenario again…what did they do to cause you to be angry? What was your thought process? Was the issue quickly resolved or did in linger on…is it still lingering? Was the gospel at the forefront of your thinking as you considered the situation? Why is forgiveness so unnatural for us? I mean, can you really see yourself being perfectly innocent of any crime, and yet being executed for the crimes of others, and then forgiving them on the spot? I think the reason that forgiveness seems so unnatural is because it is! One of Paul’s goals in Colossians is to demonstrate that forgiveness is a necessary implication of the Gospel and those who have been raised to new life are those clothed in compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Is this a description of you?
Our sermon his week at Redeemer is entitled Seek the Things Above, from Colossians 3:1-17. Keeping with the theme of Colossians, Paul centers his instruction firmly on the Gospel. He does not say “grit your teeth and forgive others,” or “just do it.” He reminds those who are struggling with forgiveness to consider their own former state. People who were “immoral, impure, greedy and evil,” characterized by “anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from their mouths.” Notice how this latter list of sins are all responses that we have to others. Someone wrongs us and we respond in anger. Someone talks about me, and I talk about them. Someone raises their voice to me, I can play that game too! Paul says that we should consider our bodies dead to this sort of behavior! But how? Consider verses 12-13: “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.” Remember that Paul is writing to a church. These are Christians who need to put on and put off–this is not natural or automatic!
Let me ask you: How much have you been forgiven? What have you “brought to the table” in your own conversion? What is ruling in your heart–the peace of Christ or your desire to be right? None of us can say that we live this way consistently, but that is no excuse to hold on to bitterness and hope for revenge. How are you being made more like Christ when you are wronged? Join us this week as we seek to “let the word of Christ dwell richly within us with all wisdom, (that we may be) teaching and admonishing one another…singing with thankfulness in our hearts!”