Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32
One of the things I’ve noticed about gracious people is that they often have an incredible capacity to overlook the faults of others and focus on their strengths instead. I suppose it’s the same way that God looks at us, even if we don’t always perceive it that way.
While it might seem that gracious people could be simply unaware of just how sinful others can be, usually just the opposite is true. Gracious people, like God, often seem to understand sin and just how destructive sin can be. But just like God, they also understand something else. They understand just how powerful forgiveness can be.
As a result, when faced with a sin in someone else’s life, those who are filled with grace make a conscious decision to choose forgiveness over anger, blessing over cursing, and compassion over destruction.
The Apostle Paul understood these choices as well. In his letter to the Ephesians, he urged them to give up their thoughts of anger, rage and malice, and to extend forgiveness, grace and kindness instead. He wrote:
“ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold… Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 29-32).
Forgiveness is at the heart of grace. It’s what makes Christ Himself so gracious. The Bible says that Christ didn’t wait for us to turn from our sins before He was willing to die for us, but rather,
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8b).
That’s grace. That’s forgiveness. That’s what God has done for us in Christ. And that’s what God wants us to do for others.
Being gracious isn’t about ignoring, or excusing, other people’s sin. Being gracious is about forgiving other people’s sin―because God, in Christ, has forgiven you of yours.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. In the story, Jesus tells about a king who forgives one of his servants of a huge debt. But when that servant goes home and demands repayment of a debt that one of his fellow men owed to him, the king had the unmerciful servant thrown into prison, saying that he wouldn’t get out until he paid back all he owed. Jesus’ ends the story with these words:
“This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
If someone has wronged you, God understands. He knows the hurt and pain that sin can cause. But He also knows how heavy it can be to carry around the burden of anger, as well as the burden of what’s been done to you. You don’t have to carry both. Let go of the anger, and let God heal the hurt.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, he included these words: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Then He added these sobering words:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
If anyone understands forgiveness, it’s Christ. And if anyone can help you to forgive others when they’ve sinned against you, it’s Christ, too. Let Him help you to forgive. Let Him show you what true grace is about by teaching you how to extend it to others. Then one day, when others look to you and say, “How can you be so gracious!?!” you’ll be able to say, “Because Christ has been so gracious to me.”
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (from Matthew 6:9-13)