September 1, 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 people who wrong us? One of the most persuasive reasons for forgiving is that God in Christ has forgiven us. God’s forgiveness provides for us a rationale, a model, and motivation to forgive. The more we experience how God has forgiven us, the more we’ll be able and even eager to forgive others.
Why should you forgive those who have wronged you? In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw that we are to forgive others, not only in obedience to Scripture, but also because forgiveness is an expression of kindness and compassion. Yet this is not the only rationale for forgiveness in Ephesians 4:32.
This verse reads, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Notice the final phrase, “as God in Christ has forgiven you.” This phrase provides a rationale for forgiveness, a model of forgiveness, and motivation for forgiveness. We could read this verse as saying, “Because God forgives you in Christ, you are to forgive each other.” You are to forgive, not because of your inherent graciousness, nor because the one who wronged you has done something to deserve forgiveness, but because of what God has done for you in Christ. You are to forgive as a response to God’s gracious forgiveness given to you through the cross of Jesus Christ. Why should you forgive others? Because God first forgave you. There’s a solid rationale for forgiveness.
The phrase “just as in Christ God forgave you” also shows us a model of forgiveness. In Ephesians 1:7-8, we read, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” Similarly, Ephesians 2:4-7 reveals that even when we were dead in our transgressions, God made us alive with Christ “because of his great love for us,” and because God is “rich in mercy,” and because of “the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Forgiveness flows freely from God’s grace, mercy, and love.
So God models for us what forgiveness looks like. Plus, by forgiving us, God motivates us to forgive others. The more we take in how God has forgiven us in Christ, the more we will be encouraged and empowered to forgive others. The more we let the model of God’s forgiveness in Christ guide us, the more we will want to forgive graciously, mercifully, and lovingly. The more we experience the freedom of God’s forgiveness, the more we will be free to forgive others.
So, one of the most compelling reasons to forgive is the fact that God has forgiven us, thus showing us how we should act toward others and moving us to forgive even as God in Christ has forgiven us.
Why isn’t it okay for us to receive God’s forgiveness without also forgiving others?
Can you think of a time in your life when you were able to forgive someone because of what God had already done for you in Christ?
It would make sense here to say, “Here’s something to do: Forgive someone who has wronged you.” That’s a fine suggestion. But the freedom to forgive comes, not only from obedience, but also from your experience of God’s having forgiven you. So, take some time to reflect on how God has forgiven you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you take in the wonder of God’s forgiveness. Feel the freedom and joy that come from knowing that God accepts you just as you are because of Christ.
Gracious God, how I thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that this forgiveness flows from your amazing grace and boundless mercy. Thank you for offering me forgiveness, not on the basis of my worthiness, but on the basis of Christ’s worthiness.
Help me, dear Lord, to forgive others because you have forgiven me. Help me to make the connection between what I have received from you and what you want to me give away to others. May my experience of your forgiveness set me free to forgive others graciously, for their sake and for mine, and for your glory. 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: Best of Daily Reflections: Rich Grace, Richly Given
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.