We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. What does that mean? It means when we were still in our sin and were His enemies He left heaven and came to earth to initiate a relationship with us. He made that possible by paying for sin so we could be redeemed, forgiven, and reconciled to Him. Of the people I have known over the years, the most forgiving people are those who understand God's grace and forgiveness in deeply personal ways. They have came to terms with their own sinfulness and then the extent of God's forgiveness. By contrast to the scene above I read a true story of a couple who had an argument one day and exchanged some really hateful words. The wife went upstairs and they never spoke to each other and never slept in the same bed again. It's sad they lost years of companionship, conversation, hugs, laughter, comfort, and yes, kisses. This was because neither had the courage to be the first one to "forgive." Neither had the courage to be the first to move back towards their spouse. Neither had the frame work of experiencing the grace of God for their sin.
God's word tells us to forgive. "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32) But, God know that forgiveness is never easy. It is one of the bravest acts of love we can extend to another person. In the face of hurt and anger it requires a willingness to risk more hurt and more rejection. It requires us to crucify our pride, our right to take revenge, and our desire to carry out our sense of justice on another. It requires we put to death the desire to cause another person to feel the pain we feel and then some. It requires trusting God to give the strength to be kind when we feel like lashing out. It requires strength as we allow God to give us words of grace seasoned with salt instead of just spewing the hateful words that pop into our minds in the moment. It requires trusting God to provide healing for heart wounds not only for past and present hurts, but our future ones as well. It requires that we trust Him to provide a way to rebuild broken relationships.
We want to understand that forgiveness does not mean just putting one's self back into unhealthy, sinful relationships. For God has instructed us to lovingly speak truth to one another and to exhort and encourage each other to grow. If we look in the Gospels at what Christ said to people as He dealt with them we see forgiveness and we see truth telling. Along with expressions of forgiveness and acceptance He told them to go and sin no more. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we don't address issues that hurt us. However, it does mean we address them in a way that invites reconciliation and a correction of the relationship so each person and the relationship honors God.
When we are struggling with a conflict with someone close to us we want to do some self examination. Could it be that our pride and/or theirs prevents us from restoring the relationship? If we long for the relationship to be restored, do we have the courage to "kiss first" by moving towards the person instead of withdrawing?
Some of the sweetest relational intimacy is born out of brokenness that is healed as we work through conflict and extend forgiveness. Christ loved us first and out of that love He died for us, initiating forgiveness and restoration. I wonder are you...am I...willing to do the same for another?
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending your Son to demonstrate Your love to us. Thank you for forgiving us of our sin and for initiating our reconciliation to You. Even in the midst of our broken relationships and our deepest hurts, give us the courage to be willing to extend forgiveness and reconciliation to others first. Please search our hearts and show us when pride rears its ugly head and hinders our ability to forgive. Please heal our hearts so we’re passionate enough in our relationships to be the first one to forgive and seek reconciliation. Amen.