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2014-07-12:Gift of forgiveness.

Webster defines gift as “something given to show friendship, affection, support, etc.” Using this definition, it seems logical to give gifts only to people we love, not to those who hurt or abuse us. Yet Scripture clearly tells us to offer one of the greatest possible gifts—forgiveness—to those who mistreat us.

To forgive means “to give up all claims to punish or exact a penalty for an offense.” No strings or conditions can be attached, or else it ceases to be a pardon. Ephesians 2:8-9 expands on this by contrasting the gift of salvation with works. Neither salvation nor forgiveness can be earned; both must be freely given. God granted us forgiveness, which we did not deserve and could not earn. And in much the same way, we are to release every offender from any form of penalty.

Unforgiveness is emotional bondage that consumes minds with memories of offenses, distorts emotions with revenge, and fills hearts with churning unrest. Its tentacles reach deep into the soul, affecting both spiritual and physical health. But the one who chooses to put on love and offer forgiveness is ready to receive the peace of Christ. Let God’s Word help you release hurt and anger into His caring hands—then watch as vengeful thoughts are transformed into praise and gratitude to the Lord.

Thankfully, the gift of pardon is not something we have to manufacture in ourselves. This present is wrapped in the love of God and tied with the red ribbon of Christ’s sacrifice. It is freely given to us by the Savior, and our job is simply to pass it on to others.

Something Has to Change

Why is it challenging for us to follow a godly path? As we mentioned, two conflicting tendencies exist within every believer: the patterns of the corrupted old self—or “the flesh”—and the righteousness of a new nature in Christ. The characteristics of these opposing inclinations are vividly portrayed in today’s verses. The quality of forgiveness, or the lack of it, will largely determine which tendency prevails in our lives.

The inevitable result of unforgiveness is anger, bitterness, and malice. By refusing to forgive, we allow the old flesh nature to dominate and produce its poisonous fruit. Every area of our life is affected when we refuse to extend to others the pardon Christ so generously extended to us—in essence, we are treating those around us as we would never want the Lord to treat us. Thankfully, His mercy toward us has no limit.

Although the pain and injustice of an offense can break our heart or damage our sense of self-worth, a refusal to forgive denies God the opportunity to redeem the hurt. We want Him to change the offender and make him sorry for what he has done, but the Lord wants to transform us. Forgiveness frees us to live in our new Christlike nature and enables us to see others through eyes of grace and mercy.

Look again at verses 31 and 32. Which one describes you? As believers, we all long to exhibit the qualities of our new nature, but the Lord can produce them only if we are willing to exchange offenses and grudges for tender hearts that forgive. Something has to change—let it be you and me.

Let us read Colossians 3:12-17  and Ephesians 4:22-32