If not for love, we would not exist. Love brought us into being; love made us free for free will. Love made a way for us to return to God, having failed love. And love sustains us, eternally.
God’s love. For God is love. God’s love sustains us, whether we acknowledge it or not.
God’s love is intricately woven into all creation, from every nuance of intelligent design to the concept of the family unit, to the purpose of love in procreation, to the fact that all creatures need love, to the justice we cry out for in all courses of life, right back to the concept of creation itself. Why in the world is there this thing called “life”? It’s because of love. It’s because of God. Existence is the actual proof.
But there is a chasm between God’s original design in the perfection of love and our lived reality of life, where we endure lives often riddled with puzzling complexities and toxic relational situations. When love blesses, does no harm, and brings life, the actuality of life on earth is that harms are done so routinely as to make it seem like love’s tapestry is negated in and over creation. And, no matter how much we are loved and reciprocate in the loving, we all contribute to the dysfunction.
Having failed God and life and just about everybody else in our lives, we all need a cosmic second chance and that second chance is given through God in Christ, which is to be the template for OUR lives. How do we give a relationship a second chance—in case that second chance is warranted? We give it a chance to be forgiven.
To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, We forgive the “unforgivable” because we ourselves have been forgiven the unforgivable.
As we honor the truth through the humility of seeing our sin, we are given the keys to life as we see ourselves as no better than others. God’s love shows us this in the cosmic forgiveness we have received. To the glory of God’s name, we all have the same condition as everyone else.
THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF LOVE AND TRUST
Love compels a person to the wisdom of trust. Forgiveness is the wisdom of trust. We must trust God to truly forgive, making forgiveness one of discipleship’s most important performance indicators. Those who take their faith seriously, seriously trust God to the extent of understanding and appreciating the value of the mercy that has been extended to them as an individual. It motivates behaviors of reciprocity because God has been so good to us.
In trusting God, a door is opened to us that opens up to us access to a power we can only receive through an iron-clad trust in God. God must be our god, our only god, and this pure allegiance can only be lived one moment at a time. We march to God’s tune alone when we extend the mercy God’s extended to us to others, each and every time.
Hard as it is to write, we cannot love if we cannot trust because love implies and requires trust. And this is the most direct reason why forgiving is central. If our forgiving is hindered in any way—and for those who have endured trauma at the hands of others, this is hard as much as it feels unfair—our trust likewise is hindered, and it affects our capacity to love.
Harmed by the abuse done to us and harmed by their refusal to repent, we are actually harmed MORE through a heart hardened by these harms, and our inability to forgive hinders our capacity to trust and therefore love.
True reconciliation is more about redeeming our own calloused hearts to trust and love than it is about their repentance of the other or restoring broken relationships.
Love requires abandon, and abandon is exactly what trust is. Trust trusts because it does. Trust and love could also be described as “surrender,” and there’s nothing more important from a faith perspective than that. So we can see why love and trust are interdependent, and we can see that faith is characterized by these qualities in letting go.
As much as love and trust let go and have no resistance, it’s to be the same with forgiveness. Given that God had no hesitation in extending the loving hand of grace to us in Christ Jesus, we too can embody this love, this trust, this forgiveness, especially as we’ve received God’s love, God’s trust, God’s forgiveness—we, who are no better than anyone else.
In terms of God’s love, we have been trusted with the keys to the Kingdom because, for all eternity, we have been forgiven. God can trust us to run the Kingdom when we ruled by love, to trust, forgiving as we have been forgiven—because we have received it humbly.
RIGHTEOUS LOVING OF FORGIVING AND TRUSTING LEADS TO LIFE
There is such a contrast between light and darkness, good and evil, and love and tyranny in many of the Psalms. In Psalm 52, there is the image of what happens when we trust in what’s termed “God’s unfailing love,” which is perfect faithfulness; when we trust in what is entirely trustworthy:
“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”
Trust leads to a flourishing life surrendered to God’s purposes, and such a life is free from the tyranny of many burdens that were never intended to be ours to carry. To LIVE this life is to live IN the house of God.
In life, to go forwards, we often need to backtrack. I’ve intentionally not called it going “backward” because, whilst it might seem frustrating and even humiliating to backtrack, it is necessary. We only realize this when we trust God enough to go back. In going back, we meet frustration, but with patience and trust we go back with an attitude of fully relying on God, not leaning on our own understanding. Progress is made when we can go back with an attitude of joy, knowing that God wants the best for us and that God’s measures of success are not the world’s or even our measure of success.
When we more willingly accept our life situations, we demonstrate by our patience that we trust God.
FORGIVENESS, THE LOVE OF GOD, IN OUR LIVES
Love, in the full sense of the word, is embodied in the attitude and action of forgiveness.
God instituted forgiveness from the beginning in the plan that would send the Son to the earth to live as an example, to die as our Savior, and to be raised as our Lord and King.
God loved us by Jesus’ lived example, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and Jesus’ defeating death, each demonstrating forgiveness rooted in love. It is the model of love. Our model for life.
Love ensures that the truth is honored (God’s perfect justice) and that forgiveness (God’s perfect grace) is offered in trust because all will be required to respond to that truth.
When the love of God is in us and working through us, we see both our need of forgiveness—we are so thankful we have been forgiven—which inspires our need to forgive.
God knows we need to forgive to have access to the flow of God’s love that is ever present and available for us. God knows we need to trust that God does and will execute justice—and we can, knowing that God’s justice is perfect and that we can leave others’ debts against us with God, just as we must reconcile our debts before God.
For our own good, for our own health, for our own healing, it’s to LOVE that we are called by God, and the principal means to this love, practically in our lives, is forgiveness.
This is the call from God to each of us: it is LIVING this love of forgiving in the everyday conflicts that occur in our homes, on the roadways, when shopping, in our workplaces, in our churches, in our going out and coming home, everywhere, just as much as it’s LIVING this love of forgiving debtors in the entrenched conflicts in those places.
Each is as hard as the other, the everyday and the entrenched. The former is hard because of our instincts, reflex actions, biases, etc. The latter is hard because of our hardness of heart and also the wisdom needed in the boundaries that are, at times, warranted.
Everyday conflicts are forgiven in the moment when we keep ourselves humbly accountable when we judge others in a flash, whether for unintentional errors, mistakes, and lapses. What a great blessing it is to have such awareness that we can catch ourselves even as “little things” trigger us. The fact is we so easily judge and condemn attitudes and behaviors that we ourselves engage in; the lack of awareness, the hurry, the indifference, not considering others, forgetting, selfishness as others would see it, etc., whether by intention or omission.
Entrenched conflicts are forgiven through a choice to walk in the freedom and light of knowing our OWN sinful nature. When the log or plank in our own eye is ever in focus, we thank God each day for this knowledge that empowers us to work on ourselves and not point our index finger at others. We can change things in our own lives, but we can do nothing to change another person. When we thank God for the knowledge of our own sin, we embody immense gratitude that we have been forgiven all our sins. Living in this knowledge removes all burden from us as we walk easier and lighter into each glorious day of our lives, no matter what is happening in our external world.
Forgiveness, the love of God, is the eternal message not simply for eternal salvation but for LIFE now for any who would simply believe, trust, and forgive.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework
Featured Image by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash
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