“You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:31-32)
Forgiveness from God produces fruits of sanctification—especially love for God and others—when it is intentionally remembered. A Christian who does not love God or others and refuses to forgive is an oxymoron; it’s an inconceivable contradiction. At best, resentment and its child, bitterness, reveal that our faith is immature and short-sighted. At worst, this lack of obedience to God and love for others exposes the fatal state of a heart that has not been effectually touched by grace. Considering the descriptions of God’s forgiveness, these are critical points of application for us to think about.
In the first of today’s Scriptures, Jesus teaches that love for God is evidence of having been forgiven by God. In other words, as you remember the depth of the forgiveness you’ve received through faith in Jesus, your heart is stirred to love him more deeply. If you regularly ponder the depth of your sinfulness (like the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears), you will appreciate the breadth of God’s forgiveness, and grow in humility and love for him. But the opposite is true as well.
If you forget God’s forgiveness of your sins, you may become proud and calloused. As a result, you who have been forgiven much may begin to act like those who think they have been forgiven little and, consequently, you will be slow to forgive others. When you fall short of displaying the grace of Christlike forgiveness, the soil of your heart is in danger of being hardened to the point that “the root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble” (see Heb. 12:15). Instead, choosing to remember how much you have been forgiven will cultivate love and tenderheartedness.
Therefore, the second of today’s Scriptures directs you to practice biblical love by forgiving others as a fruit of gospel grace. You are commanded to “put away” bitterness and all its cousins, and to put on the kindness of God which leads to forgiving others just “as God in Christ forgave you.” The context of this command is the larger command to “put off your old self….to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self” (Eph. 4:22-24). In other words, knowing who you are in Christ should propel you (at least in your heart) toward—not away from—the people who hurt you.
Jesus also maintained this important connection in the prayer pattern which he gave to his disciples: “Pray then like this…. forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:9, 12, emphasis added). Then Jesus gives a promise and a warning: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). The daily awareness of our own sinfulness will lead us to regularly ask God for his forgiveness, which will then keep our heart tender and forgiving toward those who wrong us.
Talk to Yourself. Read Ephesians 4:17-32. What specific area of your life is the Holy Spirit directing your attention to? What sinful attitudes or actions do you need to put off? What evidences of Christlike love do you need to put on?
Talk to God. In your journal, write out a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the depth of his forgiveness of your sins, and ask him to cultivate the soil of your heart to be quick to forgive others.
Talk to Others. Is there someone in your church, family, workplace, etc. who has wronged you, but you refuse to forgive?