Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Col. 3:12-15).
Bearing in mind the awesome blessing of being God’s holy, chosen beloved, let’s move on through this passage. The next part that really affected my thinking about bitterness was this: “if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.”
Notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say, “If you think you have a complaint against another, just pretend it doesn’t exist and ignore your wounds.” It also doesn’t say, “If you have a complaint against someone, forgive him when he has appropriately received punishment and groveled in repentance.”
God doesn’t ask us to overlook injustice; we can acknowledge the fact that people do wrong us. But God doesn’t want us to whine about, to take revenge on, or to hold a grudge against those who offend. He wants us to forgive freely and unconditionally. How is that possible? When someone hurts me in small ways over and over again, or when someone commits a staggering betrayal of me, where do I find the ability to forgive?
“As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The Lord forgave me freely and unconditionally. “While we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly … while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6,8). God didn’t wait until I acknowledged him, until I got my act together and did the right things. No, when I was ignorant of the wrongs I had done to him, when I was willfully choosing sin, when I was offending and mocking him, he forgave me sacrificially and completely. And that’s the kind of forgiveness he calls me to extend to people who injure me.