the shape of leadership

Power to Forgive

Letting go of offenses in a grudge-holding world

A life-giving relationship with God requires forgiveness — not just from God, but also toward others. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that unforgiveness is a serious issue: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

It’s concerning, then, that nearly a quarter of practicing Christians in the U.S. (23 percent) say there is someone they can’t forgive, according to a recent report from Barna Group. Of those harboring unforgiveness, only 28 percent even want to let it go.

Against a backdrop of rage and offense, few things stand out like a gentle, forgiving heart.

In an increasingly hostile culture, grudges are more familiar territory than grace — even among many who claim the name of Christ. Nevertheless, God calls us to forgive freely, serve humbly, and love selflessly. Of course, He doesn’t ask us to do these unnatural things in our own strength. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the absence of mercy, spirituality rings hollow. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (verses 1-2).

As we approach Pentecost Sunday, may we seek God for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit on our churches — and a renewed revelation of His grace among our people. Against a backdrop of rage and offense, few things stand out like a gentle, forgiving heart. Love that extends even to our enemies and those who have wronged us points to a God with whom all things are possible.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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