In her youth, poet Elizabeth Barrett had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert Browning were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived the rest of their lives.
Even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. If her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.
Read: Colossians 3:12-17
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Believers are commanded to forgive others. It is a mark of the Christian to forgive when wronged. We are to "bear with each other" and forgive whatever happens (v. 13). This is not easy and cannot be done without God's work in our lives.
Unforgiven and unforgiving people are not happy folks. There is little joy where the heart is locked up and hurt.
So, how do we forgive when we do not want to?
1. Remember your identity (v. 12). You are special to God, fully right with Him and deeply loved (v. 12). This came through forgiveness! He loved you while you were His enemy. He showed love while we were hurting Him (Rom. 5:8).
2. Remember your clothes (v. 12-14). Paul commands the believers to "put on" clothes of love. He said to wear it as our identity. It looks like patience, gentleness, humility. It looks like the Holy Spirit is going to have to help us on this one!
3. Remember your depths (v. 13). How do you forgive? As the Lord did. So critical to think of ourselves here and realize what perfect God had to overlook to forgive sinful me.
4. Seek peace (v. 15). This is a command to let peace "umpire" you! Think of that. Peace is to be an UMPIRE in our lives that calls balls and strikes! Sometimes we can be critical and self-serving but not here. We are commanded to be the Peace Umpire. Peace is the standard of our relationships with others. We are to choose peace whenever possible.
5. Seek truth (v. 16). We are commanded to let the Word dwell in us. God's perspective is our goal. This is accomplished in the written and the living Word.
Do not sacrifice joy on the altar of unforgiveness. Let it go. Release.
The art of forgiving is a spiritual grace every Christian should develop. Because this is so difficult to put into practice, one author offers the following suggestions:
* Assure yourself that compared to Christ's suffering your offense is minor.
* List the benefits you have received from the Lord.
* Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.
* Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.
* Look for opportunity to serve him or give a gift in secret.
* Before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.