“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
(Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)
As believers, as people of the church, we sometimes find ourselves living a contradiction. And there’s one such contradiction that often affects our relationships. It affects our relationship with our spouse, children, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow church members.
We understand the teaching of Scripture. We understand the message of the gospel. We believe and confess that we are a sinful people. We believe and confess that we are in no way deserving of salvation. We believe and confess there’s no way we can earn salvation. And we believe and confess that, in spite of our condition, God has graciously provided for us the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of everlasting life.
However, when it comes to our relationships here in this world, it seems that we forget these truths. Even though we believe that all people are sinful, we seem to think that they should never sin against us. Even though we believe that there’s no way we could ever become deserving of God’s love and forgiveness, we seem to think that others must become deserving of our own. And even though we believe that God’s love is given to us as a free gift, we demand to be paid back for our own.
I’m certainly not trying to excuse the harm others have done to us. I’m also not denying the fact that, when others harm us, they’re to confess their sin and repent of it. However, we are clearly holding people to standards they could never attain. We are holding them to standards to which we could never measure up.
This is harmful to any relationship. It’s setting our relationships up for failure. Just as God is gracious with us, so must we be gracious with one another.
This is exactly what Paul is telling us in the above passage. As believers, we’re to be compassionate with one another. We’re to be kind to one another. We’re to approach one another in a spirit of humility and meekness. We are to be patient, and bear with one another. And, if we have a complaint against one another, we’re to forgive.
He tells us that we’re to forgive one another just as Christ has forgiven us. As Jesus forgives us freely, we must freely forgive one another. As he forgives, demanding nothing in return, we must forgive others demanding nothing in return. As he forgives us again and again, so must we forgive one another again and again. As he forgives our continual failure without giving up on us, we forgive the continual failure of others without giving up on them. As he bestows his grace upon us, so must we extend grace to one another.