Put on the Character of Christ: FORGIVE
Updated: Aug 7, 2020
When I was getting dressed for my first podcast, I faced a challenge. Liz, one of the hosts, said the session would be audio and video, so I needed to look cute. Easier said than done these days! So I waffled between the choices in my closet. The blue flowered top or a solid color? Are stripes okay? Casual or dressy?
I went with the denim jacket. Classic, right?
There is a cool Greek word, endyo, (pronounced en-du’-o) which means to sink into clothing, to put on, to clothe one’s self, that’s used 29 times in the New Testament.
Romans 13:14 – “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Galatians 3:27 – “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Ephesians 6:11 – “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
How do we clothe ourselves in Christ-like character?
We must choose to “put on” or “clothe ourselves” in Christ, sinking into His nature and character. It’s like sliding into our favorite sweatshirt and stretchy pants, something we’re all familiar with during this crazy pandemic season. We must learn to choose Christ-like qualities like we do comfy clothing, sinking into them like a second skin. How we do that concerning forgiveness?
Colossians 3:12-14 says: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
When our children were in later elementary grades, life was outwardly good…no obvious problems. My husband Louis and I were serving at church, I was working, our marriage was fine, but I started having terrible dreams at night – violent and evil. I wasn’t sleeping well and I started feeling very depressed. I was struggling to be functional at work and at home. Finally, someone referred me to a Christian counseling center and I made an appointment. At my second appointment, she asked me a life-changing question:
"Who do you need to forgive?"
Seriously, the list of names that sprung to my mind was so long! I was almost 40 years old at that point and my mind shot back all the way to third grade mean girls.
The counselor asked me to make a list and WRITE IT DOWN, which I tackled over the next week. At the next session, she explained what to do with it. She told me to go down the list and purposely, out loud forgive each one individually.
Friends, I had no idea I was harboring that much bitterness and resentment. I didn’t decide to hang onto all those offenses. Many of them were one-time comments or perceived slights I buried inside and simply didn’t deal with. These were the people I avoided at school, work, on social media - even at church.
Some of the offenses were much bigger issues I needed to work through, like with my mom who was an alcoholic. She was at her worst when I was in my twenties and thirties – in my young adult years and as a married woman with small children. There were many painful memories. But holding onto all that pain was like taking arsenic a little bit at a time until my whole body was poisoned.
That’s what not forgiving does to us. It poisons our spirits with bitterness, resentment, and self-pity. We can’t hold onto that – it’s like cuddling with a pet rat!
First of all, I highly recommend a Christian counselor if you need it, but the Holy Spirit is a pretty awesome One too. Ask Him to help you! Make that list and work through it. If you have some tough forgiveness issues, let the Holy Spirit guide you to someone to talk to.
By the way, my nightmares went away immediately, and the depression cleared. The link to my lack of forgiveness was undeniable.
Here are five points I’d like to share with you about forgiveness:
Forgiveness is a choice. Choosing to forgive is a step of obedience to God. Just like the clothes I choose to wear, we decide if we are going to forgive. Colossians 3:13 says “Forgive because God forgave you.” It’s not a suggestion but a command. Ultimately, we must choose to obey God, or not.
When we don’t forgive, it hurts us most. If we are unwilling to forgive others, God says He won’t forgive us. Matthew 6:14-15: “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.” Hard stuff right there.
Forgiving others has beneficial health ramifications – not just mental/emotional, but physical health. An article by Johns Hopkins Hospital says, “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.” On the flip side, not forgiving can damage us in all those same areas!
We don’t need an apology before we can forgive. We’ve been trained to only forgive after someone says I’m sorry. You don’t need it. Even if that person has passed away, moved away, and you may never see them again, you still need to forgive them. For your sake, for your healing…choose to forgive.
We must continue to forgive, again and again, as necessary. In Matthew 18:21-22, it says, Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Some issues are serious - abuse, addiction, neglect, infliction of physical, mental, and emotional pain. How do we forgive that? It’s not easy, but God’s instructions don’t change based on the level of difficulty. For our good, He still expects us to forgive.
With my mother’s drinking problem (she’s passed away now but she wouldn’t mind me telling you this), I built a lot of walls to try and shield myself from disappointments, hurt, and painful memories. I remember my mother asking me, “Why are you so hard?” Honestly, I felt like I had to become hard to protect myself.
When I finally agreed God’s way was best, and I chose to forgive my mother, then God did an amazing work – in both of us. God demolished the walls I had unconsciously built and had no idea how to take down. Choosing to forgive caused them to crash.
My Mom stopped drinking when she was 54 years old, 24 years before she passed away. She spent her later years helping others find freedom from addiction.
Gradually, God healed my relationship with my Mother. It wasn’t an easy process, like peeling back layers of an onion. As each painful memory surfaced, I had to forgive again and again. It took some time and some tears, but it was worth it.
Let's talk for a minute about the most difficult person in the world to forgive: Ourselves!
For the past few summers, my husband Louis and I have led a weekly chapel service at a local homeless shelter. Summer before last, we conducted an anonymous spiritual assessment survey on the men and women who attended and the results of one question surprised us. I thought they misunderstood the question, which was, “Do you feel like you need to forgive yourself?”
Ninety-five percent of those we surveyed answered yes to that question! What the chaplain told us was eye opening. He said it was one of the main issues he deals with when ministering to the homeless.
We learned some things through ministering to the homeless: When we can’t forgive ourselves, we become stuck in a cycle of despair that affects every aspect of our lives – our jobs, relationships, our ability to cope with day-to-day realities. If we can’t forgive ourselves, we also can’t forgive others. It’s a hopeless dysfunctional cycle.
If we know to do right, and don’t do it, it is sin. If we know to forgive, and don’t do it, it is sin. This includes forgiving yourself. Jesus died so our sins would be forgiven. Who are we to negate the cross of Christ and withhold forgiveness from the one He gave His life to save? Me. You. We need to forgive ourselves, friend. Then we can forgive others. This is the only way to health and wholeness.
Colossians 3:14 says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
The only way to forgive from the heart is by clothing ourselves with the character of Christ, sinking into His love. When we clothe ourselves with God’s love, forgiveness will always be a natural outflow.
To watch DJ on The Table Podcast, a ministry of BattleCreek Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on YouTube, click here.
To listen on Spotify, click here.