The Lord’s kingdom is a forgiving kingdom

Posted Sep 10, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

1 John 1:8-9

8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.

Reflection Questions

Jesus, the King who reigned from a cross, strikingly prayed for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). His followers live forgiven and forgiving because Jesus is the lord of their lives. As scholar N. T. Wright put it: “Have you ever tried to let Christ’s peace, Christ’s word, Christ’s name be the reality around which you order your life? If you have, you’ll know it’s not easy. It takes serious prayer and real moral effort…. King Jesus is to be the decider in all your deliberations…. whatever you do or say must be able to stand having these words written above it: ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus’.”*

  • John knew we often like to fool ourselves: “If we claim, ‘We don’t have any sin,’ we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Are you ignoring any God-given inner convictions that you need to face some issue honestly? If so, talk seriously with God about it. When have you been honest about a flaw or struggle, and found that it opened you to the freedom John described: “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong”?
  • “As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.” Sound simple? C. S. Lewis learned that it isn’t: “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me…. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me…. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances… that [real forgiveness] we can always have from God if we ask for it.”** How have you learned to recognize the difference between saying, “It was no big deal” and truly forgiving the part of any action that had no good excuse?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me clarity about my strengths and about my failings. And give me clarity, too, about my daily need for your forgiving, empowering grace to nurture and grow me. Amen.


* Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 181, 183). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

** C. S. Lewis, “On Forgiveness” in The Weight of Glory and other addresses. HarperSanFrancisco, 1976, pp. 178, 181. (Lewis’s entire essay is well worth reading.)

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Chris Abel

Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Pastor of Students and Young Adults at Resurrection, and he describes himself as a "Pastor/Creative-type/Adventurer." A former atheist turned passionate follower of Christ, he completed his seminary education in Washington, DC. Before coming to Resurrection, Chris was a campus pastor near St. Louis, MO.

(Other commitments kept Pastor Chris Abel from writing for today. In his stead, we offer a longer excerpt from the C. S. Lewis essay "On Forgiveness" referred to in today's GPS reading.)

"It seems to me that we often make a mistake both about God's forgiveness of our sins and about the forgiveness we are told to offer to other people's sins. Take it first about God's forgiveness. I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me....Forgiveness says, 'Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.' Excusing says, 'I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.' If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive....If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your action needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it....there is usually some amount of excuse, some 'extenuating circumstances.' We are so anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don't cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgiveable....

When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying....They keep on replying, 'But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.' Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn't mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart--every wish to humiliate or hut him or to pay him out.)

The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people's we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men's sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think....To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard....

How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.' We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says."

--Excerpted from C. S. Lewis, “On Forgiveness” in The Weight of Glory and other addresses. HarperSanFrancisco, 1976, pp. 177 - 183.

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