I JOHN 2:9-11: “Those who say that they are in the light but hate other believers are still in the dark. Those who love other believers live in the light. Nothing will destroy the faith of those who live in the light. Those who hate other believers are in the dark and live in the dark. They don’t know where they’re going, because they can’t see in the dark.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Am I blinded by unforgiveness? Do I have some deep seated resentment against another brother or sister in Christ? Have I internalized an offense, rather than giving it to the Lord? John is very clear and straightforward – love equals light, hate equals darkness. I need to listen carefully to God’s Word and the still small voice of the Spirit. When I am convicted of any sign of offense, hurt, unforgiveness, or hatred, I need to deal with it immediately. I need to bring it to the Cross, and I need to both receive, and give mercy and forgiveness.
- “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember there that another believer has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. First go away and make peace with that person. Then come back and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24 GW)
Why is this so important? Why does Jesus and John both call us to deal with our unforgiveness, offenses, and hatred quickly? The answer is – unforgiveness and hatred destroy our faith and fellowship with God and with one another. Our prayer life will be hindered, our faith will waiver, and we will be walking on a path of bitterness that can lead us into further hurt, frustration, and difficulty. The irony of this is that the person who harbors hurt and unforgiveness does not even know that they are stumbling in the darkness. John writes – “They don’t know where they’re going, because they can’t see in the dark.”
An inner voice may rise up in our heart – “But I am right!” Forgiveness is never about who is right, it is always about who is willing to be merciful. If the Lord forgave us on the basis of who was right, we would all still be lost in our sin. Yet, the Father forgives all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ, solely because of His great mercy and love! Jesus bore God’s wrath for mankind’s sin, so that mankind could receive His mercy and love! This is what Jesus meant when He said – “Freely you have received, so freely give!” It is never about proving we are right, getting even, or making the other person cry “Uncle”. Mercy does not demand, it freely gives.
Well, what if the offending party has done this over and over again? What if they are not willing to repent and be restored? What do I do then?
- “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22 GW)
John is addressing an estranged relationship between two believers. These are two people who have received the free gift of salvation. These are two people who have partaken of God’s mercy and love. When Peter asked Jesus about this, Jesus told Peter – “Keep forgiving!” He does not really put a limit on it. When Jesus says 70 times 7, He is using an illustration to show that the call to mercy is to be a perpetual fountain flowing from the heart of the believer. It is not based on the offending parties worthiness or actions. It is based solely on the call of God to walk in the light, in the power of His love!
Forgiveness releases us from the grips of hurt, bitterness, and hatred. It turns us from darkness to the light. It brings us to a place of wisdom and discernment whereby we can navigate through the difficulties of relationships with the goal of reconciliation and restoration. And it allows us to see clearly so that we don’t fall back into destructive relational patterns that usher both parties back into the hurt and offense that caused the rift in the first place. When we are in the darkness we cannot see to navigate these boundaries. When we are in the light, God’s mercy and love will guide us, by the Word of God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a call to take abuse over and over again. This is a call to free ourselves and the offending party so that grace can have its full affect in our lives!
Lord, keep my heart open to hear Your still small voice. Help me to deal with relational rifts before they become relational earthquakes that shake my world. Give me the grace to forgive, as You have forgiven me. Guide me by Your Spirit and Your Word to walk in the light, as You are in the light, and allow the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse me from all sin!
In Jesus Name!