Offering forgiveness to others is one of the most difficult and important aspects of the Christian life. The Bible clearly commands us to forgive others. God longs to fashion us into his likeness that we might model the love we’ve been shown to a world with no concept of mercy. He longs for us to offer grace and forgiveness to the undeserving as we have been offered grace and forgiveness when we were undeserving. May you be filled with courage and boldness to offer forgiveness to those in desperate need of grace. And may God’s love shine through as you enter into your calling as a minister of reconciliation.
Ephesians 4:26-27 offers revelation on an important and often unknown spiritual principle. Scripture says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” When we allow anger to fester within us for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, we allow the enemy to gain a foothold in our lives that robs us of the abundant life provided in Christ. In Ephesians, Paul is clear that anger in itself is not a sin; it’s when we allow anger to remain instead of choosing grace and forgiveness that we break God’s command.
When people wrong us the natural response is to be angry, and that is all right! Jesus himself was often angry. Matthew 21:12 tells us, “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” Jesus was consistently angry with those who claimed to know God and took advantage of others. Nothing made him more angry than pharisaical people. But Jesus also modeled forgiveness of the highest form. Rather than being filled with anger and allowing it to fester inside of him, he offered his life out of his love for the very people who shouted, “Crucify him!” and “Free Barabbas!”
The truth is that our anger is often a symptom of our brokenness rather than the result of the wrongs of others. Often, anger is rooted in our own insecurities and pride rather than a righteous anger for justice. It’s for this reason the Bible tells us over and over again to be slow to anger. James 1:19-20 says, “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.” Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” And Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
The Lord desires to make us a people filled with his grace and compassion over our own anger and prideful sense of justice. God, who was deserving of everything, gave it all up to show us grace. Jesus is the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords. But rather than claiming what was rightfully his own, he humbled himself before a Roman prefect and a rebellious people and gave up his own life. And now he asks you to do the same. Jesus is asking you to lay down your rights and pride to pursue a higher calling of unconditional love. He’s asking you to show grace where none is deserved. He’s asking you to offer mercy where there should rightfully be none. And he’s asking you to forgive others so that heaven might come to earth through your actions. Commit to living a lifestyle of continual forgiveness today, and allow God to work through you to bring salvation and restored relationship to a world in desperate need of a Savior.
1. Meditate on God’s command to live a lifestyle of continual forgiveness. Allow his word to fill you with a desire to be slow to anger and quick to forgive and offer grace.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
2. Who do you need to offer forgiveness to today? What anger have you allowed to fester in your heart?
3. Forgive that person or those people in your heart right now. Offer grace to them in your heart that you might receive healing in the place of bitterness.
“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
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” May we become like Jesus and offer grace and forgiveness to others who are undeserving. May we be reflections of his love by being slow to anger and quick to offer mercy. May his light shine through us today into a world wrought with darkness and pain.
Extended Reading: Ephesians 4