|The Golden Gate
We pray to be made like Christ, that his image may be impressed upon us; but we cannot be like Christ unless we have the spirit of forgiveness. Too many people who call themselves Christians seem to give little thought to this phase of the Christian life. They may seek to be honest, truthful, just, and upright, but they pass over the duties of love. There is a great lack of tenderness in many lives. Yet we cannot read the New Testament without finding the lesson of gentleness on every page. In the culture of our Christian life we are exhorted to put away every trace of bitterness, and to gather into our character everything that is kindly and loving. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” “Put in therefore, … a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye.”
These quotations show the tone of the whole New Testament. But how close to these teachings is the church of Christ living? Are we not all disposed to be too keenly alive to anything in others which appears to touch us unkindly? We praise love, but do we live it? We want other people to practise forgiveness, but when one has wronged us, we are slow to practise it ourself.
The lesson is not an easy one to learn. It is against nature. Only the grace of God in us will enable us to forgive. The spirit of forgiveness is really the shedding abroad in us of the love of God by the Holy Spirit. When we know that we are forgiven we are born anew, born from above; heaven has come down into our heart. We receive God’s forgiveness, when we receive it truly, not as something to keep only for ourself, but as a blessing which we are to spread abroad, whose grace we are to manifest and extend to others. It is thus that all God’s gifts are to be received. He gives us comfort in our sorrow, not for ourself alone, but that we may dispense it, comforting others with the comfort wherewith we ourself have been comforted of God. He delivers us in temptation, that we may strengthen our brothers in their temptation. He gives us his own joy, not to hoard for ourself, but that we may become the bearer of joy to others. He puts his love into us, that our heart may become a fountain of love in this world. So when God forgives us, he would have us represent him among men, showing in our own disposition and conduct what the divine forgiveness is. If we are revengeful, resentful, unforgiving, how can the world learn from us the sweetness, the freeness, and the fullness, of the divine forgiveness?