There is this popular saying, for lack of a better phrase, among the Christian community that God calls us to Love God and Love Others. It’s based on a conversation that Jesus had with Pharisees and teachers of the law over what was the most important of God’s commandments and he responds,
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-39
The “Love your neighbor as yourself” actually comes from a verse in Leviticus.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18
In this verse, loving your neighbor has to do with forgiveness. We extend grace to others because we also extend grace to ourselves. Now, I know on a very personal level that I don’t always extend grace to myself, which is a whole other conversation. But one of the ways we show ourselves love is by extending grace to ourselves. In the same way, that is how we love others.
Forgiveness is hard. I don’t think it’s natural for humans because we are limited in how we see others and how we see situations, whether in the past, present, or future. There are hurts I have received that I can’t possibly see how they could be redeemed, how that person could grow or change.
Not saying that consequences should be ignored or avoided. God uses natural and legal consequences to helps people grow closer to him. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the son still ended up in a pig sty before coming home. Boundaries are still a thing, but forgiveness allows the heart to be freed up from the focus of retribution in order to refocus on the love of God.
But I believe that God is the reason I can forgive others. Not just because he calls me to forgive, but because forgiveness is giving my hurt to God. Only he has the ability to move within the relationship or situation to redeem it in the best way it can be done. He knows how to forgive better than we ever will.
And God’s forgiveness is pretty vast. In Psalms it is described as this.
as far as the east is from the west,Psalm 103:12
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
This is what he calls us to do in Colossians 3.
Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13
To forgive in the same way God forgives us.
To remove the transgressions from us, not suppress them, but not let that pain and hurt dwell in our hearts where God’s love should reside. Allowing God to work in the nooks and crannies to release us from our anger and our bitterness.
Ultimately, we do not have the capacity to love or forgive the way God does. Not on our own. Not without the strength and direction of the Spirit. Just like everything else, I don’t have to forgive alone. Forgiveness gives the control of your hurt to the safe hands of God. Only he knows the true path to redemption and healing.