Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, in the same manner you should forgive others.Colossians 3:13
Paul was encouraging the believers to overlook the offenses of others based on the fact that God had forgiven them of their faults. This principle of reciprocity is stated in many places.
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
If the believers were enjoying the favor of God, then their peers should have been enjoying their favor. One cannot be truly forgiven without that same forgiveness being evident in their life toward others.
This reciprocity sounds all well and good until we realize that Yeshua also taught its opposite.
“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
A refusal to forgive others engenders a type of spiritual hostility, not only with others, but with God. God is just, and desires us to be equitable. Why? Because he is. If we are to be considered his children, then we should carry his characteristics in this world. If we have been forgiven, we should forgive others.
However, if we choose to hold on to animosity, jealousy, and selfish ambition instead of releasing it through forgiveness, then God is not obligated to forgive us of our faults. We are acting like stubborn children who then will likely require discipline to understand the error of our way. We may encounter hardship or trial due to our unwillingness to forgive others, not because God is vindictive, but because he is trying to guide our feet in the right way.
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.Hebrews 12:5-11
When we can let go of our pride and stubbornness in our relationships with others, then God will restore his favor upon us in response to our willingness to be obedient.
Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.Isaiah 38:16-17
The choice is ours: we can choose to forgive or we can endure God’s discipline, as he trains his children further in his ways.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.1 Peter 2:9
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