Paul and James on Forgiveness

The last time I shared at communion, I spoke about Paul as Hero of Faith and naturally as a hero of my faith. Today, I want to talk about what Paul and James are teaching me about Forgiveness.

As most of you know, I refer to myself as the anniversary baby because I was baptized at the 10th anniversary service on September 18, 2005. I have been a disciple for 10 and half years. One of my main weakness and sin is my anger. I know it is hard to imagine, the guy with the smiley face actually gets angry. Well, my wife tells me that besides getting angry it is how I speak, my facial expression and mannerism when I get angry, dislike or oppose something that is most concerning. In short, I do not speak or act in a loving way when I am angry and I am also not forgiving. In Ephesians 4:25 -27 Paul cautions us when he says:

In my Family Group we have been studying James and I am learning that submission to God means having an unwavering commitment and allegiance to God in all circumstances. James 1:19-20 expressly states this to all disciples: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

I have come to understand my actions and myself better with the help of my discipler or if you prefer mentor, Howard, my family and my friends. I am prideful and vindictive by nature and often adversarial, which is good for my job but not helpful for achieving unity or God’s purpose. I have to make a conscious effort to be humble and forgiving. In Ephesians 4:29 – 32 Paul writes:

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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

What stops me from forgiving wrongs or holding on to bitterness and anger? When I forget how much Christ forgave me, when I forget that Christ was tortured for my sins, when I feel entitled or justified to act, to take matters into my own hands.

What steps can I take to ensure that I am compassionate and forgiving? I have less difficulty being compassionate and merciful to people I like or those who like me. I recently saw a sign outside someone’s home and it said, Friends are welcome relatives by appointment. Am I more tolerant of friends than family? What about my wife? Ephesians 5: 21 –30 commands the following:

Instructions for Christian Households

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Skip down to verse 25)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.

Now, if I am loving my wife in a sacrificial and Christ-like manner the way Paul describes so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13, on what basis do I justify being angry or unforgiving towards her.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”8Love never fails.

I wish I could tell you that I have not been angry with my wife or that I readily forgive my wife. Regrettably, I often fall short. My wife forgives my many wrongs quickly and is certainly more merciful to me than I deserve. What prevents me from being forgiving? Am I waiting to see godly repentance or an apology before I forgive? What is the prerequisite or precondition for Forgiveness? I am commanded and we are commanded as disciples to first forgive because Christ forgave us and took on the punishment we rightfully deserved. The vicarious and substitutional death of Christ is sufficient ground for forgiveness of all wrongs and his sacrifice dictates that I do exactly that. How do I obey this command? Again, what steps do I take to achieve this Christ-like forgiveness and attitude? I have gleaned some nuggets from our Family Group Study of James and they are as follows:

  1. Submission to God:

Have an unwavering commitment and allegiance to God and not the World. Pray constantly and rely on God.

  1. Live by God’s Word – internalize it so that it becomes second nature like riding a bicycle.
  1. Live by this Principle: Love God wholeheartedly and Love your neighbor as Yourself.
  1. Do not retaliate when wronged or mistreated – surrender to God who rights all wrongs
  1. Do Not judge – hypocritical judging, superficial judging, analyzing another motives, judging others to be inferior and grumbling against a disciple.
  1. Make a conscious and deliberate decision to be merciful and forgiving and actually be merciful and forgiving.
  1. Deny or crucify yourself.
  1. Seek godly wisdom from God and exercise godly wisdom in all circumstances especially under pressure and stress.
  1. Tame your tongue and be self-controlled.
  1. Don’t omit the good you ought to do, i.e., do not be neglectful.

James summarizes it perfectly when he writes Chapter 3:17 – 18:

 Be Pure, Peace-loving, Considerate, Submissive, Full of Mercy and Good Fruit, Impartial and sincere. Be Peacemakers who sow in peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. Amen!