We have an obligation to forgive others

A recognition of the depth of our forgiven state should motivate us to forgive others.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

Paul is here reminding the Colossian believers of an obligation they have to forgive anyone who offends them. The verse speaks in a literal sense of those who have complaints or blame to assign to another. In my experience, there will always be blame to assign to someone, and there will always be complaints about others. The justification Paul gives for overcoming this blame and complaining attitude of others is because God forgave them.

We have been in this same condition before God, and yet he was willing to overlook our faults and still call us to himself. Like our natural parents Adam and Eve, we looked for excuses as to why we did not obey God, and we have been quick to assign blame to another:

“Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

Genesis 3:11-13

In our natural state prior to coming to faith in Messiah, if you’ll pardon the expression, the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. And yet, even in our new relationship with God, as we seek to grow the “new man” within us, sometimes those old tendencies rear their head and cause us to stumble. We then can fall prey to a measure of hypocrisy, something hated by all and cautioned against by Messiah:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15

The English version of Colossians 3:13 above says because “the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” A literal rendering of this admonition would be “in the same manner or to the same degree that God has forgiven you, you should do in like fashion to others.”

How much has God forgiven you for? When we realize the depth of that forgiveness, it should reveal our ability, and our obligation, to forgive others in a new light.

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