August 31, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:31-32 (NRSV)
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Why should we forgive others? What reasons are there to forgive? Well, for one thing, the Bible tells us to do so. But, beyond this, forgiveness is one way we can show kindness to others. Also, when we are tenderhearted, when we feel compassion for people, we may be able to understand why they do things to hurt us. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it may help us to forgive them.
Have you ever wondered why you should forgive someone who wronged you? I expect you have. I know I have. There have been times in my life when someone has deeply hurt me. I didn’t want to forgive and I wondered why I should. Holding onto unforgiveness can feel so safe, even so justifiable. Forgiveness seems to require opening myself up to being hurt again, which is the last thing I want to do.
So, what reason is there for forgiving someone who wronged you? If you’re a Christian who seeks to live according to biblical guidance, then there is a simple answer to this question. You should forgive because the Bible says so. Ephesians 4:32 makes this clear, even though the command to forgive comes as a participle (“forgiving”) following the main imperative (“Be kind”) Other passages in Scripture make a similar point (see, for example, Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 6:37; Colossians 3:13).
But Scripture doesn’t merely command us to forgive and leave it at that. God’s word also provides a rationale and a motivation for forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” In this verse, forgiving is an expression of kindness. As followers of Christ, we are to be people who treat others kindly just as God has treated us kindly. One way to do this is by forgiving them when they have wronged us.
Moreover, we are to be compassionate, which may also help us to forgive. When we see people as one-dimensional wrongdoers, we might find it hard to forgive them. But if we get inside their shoes, indeed, inside their hearts, we may be encouraged to forgive. I think, for example, of a man in my church in Irvine who sometimes said mean things to me. His behavior was not right. Yet I knew that he had been hurt by the far worse meanness of his own father. He was acting out of pain that was deeply embedded in his memories. When I allowed myself to feel the struggles of his wounded heart, I found it easier to forgive him. This didn’t excuse his behavior. He wasn’t merely a helpless victim, but someone who was making poor choices. Yet his choices were a reflection of his brokenness, a brokenness for which I felt truly sorry.
Why should you forgive someone who wronged you? Because Scripture commands it. But also because you are to show kindness to others and to feel compassion for them. Kindness and compassion not only require forgiveness but also help us to do it. Yet this is not the whole story. Tomorrow we’ll continue to think about another reason to forgive. Stay tuned.
When you forgive others, why do you do this?
Are there people in your life whom you’d rather not forgive? If so, why?
How might Ephesians 4:32 help you to forgive even those who are hard to forgive?
Is there someone in your life whom you need to forgive today? Are you willing to have the Lord help you act kindly toward and feel compassion for this person? If you’re struggling to forgive someone, you may need to talk this over with a wise friend or your pastor. Choose to do whatever will help you to forgive.
Gracious God, you know that forgiveness doesn’t come easily to me, especially when someone has hurt me deeply. I like the feeling of self-righteous judgment. And I really like the feeling of safety that comes with unforgiveness. Moreover, if I’m going to be really honest with you, there is part of me that likes to make others feel the pain of my unforgiveness. My vengeful heart wants wrongdoers to feel a bit of the hurt they have done to me.
So, I begin by asking you to forgive me for my unforgiveness. But I also ask for your help. Lord, you know that sometimes it is very hard to forgive. I know I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t want to, at least not for a long while. Help me forgive as a gesture of kindness. Give me a compassionate heart even for those who have done me wrong. May I see them in their full humanity, in their neediness and woundedness, not so that I might excuse their wrongdoing, but rather so that I will find the resources to forgive them as you have instructed me to do.
O Lord, may I know the freedom and cleansing that comes through forgiving others. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Melt Your Heart
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.