Recently, I was reminded of the two sides of forgiveness.
Christians have a responsibility to one another. We have the responsibility to bear one another’s burdens and to help one another in our obedience to Christ.
These are the two sides.
First, I have the absolute responsibility to forgive and let go. Nothing can take away from that responsibility. Jesus told Simon Peter to forgive 70 times 7–another way of saying “without end” or “infinitely.”
I have a responsibility–to God–to forgive. I cannot let that go.
That brings me to the other side of forgiveness. The second side is really not about forgiveness. It is instead about Christian charity. Like my responsibility to forgive, I have the absolute responsibility to love. I cannot decide whether or not I will forgive nor can I decide whether of not I will love. God has commanded me to love.
That brings me to a conundrum. Can I use your responsibility to forgive against you?
For example, can I tell you “that’s just the way I am and you have to forgive me?” No, of course not. My responsibility to love is as great as your responsibility to forgive.
Loving you means I don’t take advantage of you or attempt to manipulate you. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Love means I take my sins and offenses toward others seriously. It requires that I repent and ask God to change me so that I do not repeat the offense.
Both love and forgiveness give their best. That is how I must treat a brother or sister.
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