Forgiving Is For Giving

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:5-13, NIV).

This passage poses a real challenge. It is a challenge because in order to do what God is asking us to do, we have to actively join in the work that God is doing in our souls to get rid of sinful thoughts, attitudes, and natural inclinations, and that’s very challenging isn’t it?

Notice the difference between the earthly nature or the old-self we all share before we knew Christ, and the new-self that comes when we accept Christ as our Savior. What changes is how we respond when we are disappointed, let down, discouraged, and hurt.

•    Instead of malice, we need to respond with compassion and kindness.

•    Instead of slander and filthy language we need to respond in a spirit of humility.

•    Instead of anger and rage we are called to respond with gentleness and patience.

Paul then summarizes this call to put on the new-self we have in Christ by saying that we need to bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Being a Christian does not mean that all your problems go away. Jesus is not a magic pill that instantly gets rid of all your character flaws. And the church is not a place where everyone lives in perfect harmony with each other. The members of First Church Colossae needed to hear that they needed to bear with each other, and so do we.

How are we supposed to bear with each another? How far does God want us to go?

Phillip Yancey in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, relates an encounter a friend of his who works with the “down and out in Chicago” had one day with a prostitute. His friend relays the story saying,

A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me that she had …[to live that way]… to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. I had no idea what to say to this woman.

At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”

Yancey then makes the very interesting observation that prostitutes like this woman were drawn to Jesus. We have their stories in the gospels. But this woman’s reaction is becoming more and more common with people today. It is a common thought that Christians are, as a whole, a markedly unforgiving and ungracious people. We don’t want that to be us. What can we do to create and cultivate an atmosphere of grace and forgiveness?

A good place to start is by working with the Holy Spirit to get rid of our unhealthy anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lies.

Paul says in Colossians 3:8 that we must rid ourselves of these things. That is very strong and very clear direction isn’t it? We must, he says. It is not an option. It is not a divine suggestion.

We must be committed to put to death these behaviors. And he says we must rid ourselves of them. We cannot be content with lessening them. We must rid ourselves of them. Those behaviors have to stop. They stand in the way of grace, and therefore stand in the way of Christ. The more you let anger, malice, slander, and the like go on in your life the less you will feel God’s grace in your life. Conversely, the more you rid yourself of those things the more clearly God will present His blessings and grace to you.

Second, if you want to become more gracious and forgiving work on growing the positive God-honoring characteristics Paul lays out in verse 12 of our text.

1. Compassion. Compassion is genuinely caring for another person in need. It literally means having passion for someone, to sympathetically enter into another’s pain and sorrow. 1 Corinthians 2:3 says God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God
. God shows us compassion not only for our benefit, but so that we might share that compassion with others. I love what Oswald Chambers says in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, on November 5th:

If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others.

What a thing to be learning! Are you struggling with an unexpected hard time? Being laid off? An untimely death or illness? Divorce? How does God redeem such dark experiences? One way He redeems those times is in preparing you to help and comfort others who are going through those times too. Don’t keep God’s compassion to yourself. Give it away. Show compassion to others, especially to your church family. Paul says in Galatians 6:10, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

2.    Kindness. The words in the Hebrew and Greek we translate as kindness means love in action. If we are to live out Jesus’ command to love one another (John 13:34) we need to show it through treating each other with kindness.

3.    Humility. Proverbs 3:34 says The LORD mocks at mockers, but he shows favor to the humble. Humility has a bad rap today. Humility is not weakness. It is not self-effacing. It is not about thinking less of yourself. Humility is about thinking of yourself less. We need to be learning to put the needs of others before our own. Not because they are better than us, but because we are supposed to have the mind of Christ in our relationships with others, and that means having an attitude of servant hood. Philippians 2:5-7 says, Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. Being a Christian is about being a servant to others.

  1. Gentleness. Humility produces gentleness. James 3:17 says the wisdom that comes from heaven is…gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. Gentleness is born of strength and power that are under control. When we disagree with a brother or sister in the Lord, we need to be gentle and not belligerent towards them, even if we know we are in the right. When someone sins we are supposed to restore them gently, not rub it in their face or make an example out of them.

    What is more important: the relationship or being right? How many friendships end, how many marriages break up, and how many churches split because we are more concerned with being right and having the last word than, the health of our relationships and fellowship with each other. We need to excel at being gentle with each other.

    5.    Patience. Proverbs 16:32 says It is better to be patient than powerful. Why is that? A powerful man without patience is dangerous. In fact, I would go so far as to say that without patience, you cannot be said to be truly powerful. Patience is not passive resignation, but active endurance to opposition. God’s power and goodness are shown in His patience towards us. If we want to have good relationships with people, we need to be learning how to be patient with each other.

The key to all five of these characteristics is focusing on others. You cannot be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient and be selfish and self-centered at the same time.

Third, you have to be willing to get dirty. My friend Charlie Jones said “Show me someone who can work with people all day long and keep smiling and I’ll show you an idiot!” I completely agree. Working with sinful people can be a messy business. And sinful people are all there are to work with!

People get hurt. People offend people. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes very intentionally. And there is the sore temptation when we are hurt or offended to be more concerned about being right than being gracious and forgiving. We need to work very hard at exercising our privilege to forgive than exercising our right to be right.

Poet George Herbert hit the nail right on the head when he wrote, “He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.” If you want to have healthy and positive relationships with people you need to have the strength and willingness to be gracious and forgiving.

I think the thought I want to leave you with this morning is that forgiving is for giving. Forgiveness is not a gift that God gives us to keep to ourselves. God’s forgiveness is for giving away to others. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. As much as God is gracious and forgiving to us, we need to be to others. Forgiving is for giving.

Dr. Steve Brown, a professor of preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary says that forgiveness is the central thing of the gospel. If we get this right, everything else will be right. Let’s be committed to doing everything we can to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bearing with each other and forgiving whatever grievances we may have against one another. Forgiving one another as the Lord forgave us.


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