I’ve lived on an acreage for twenty plus years and we’ve probably had forty cherished farm cats over the years. At one point we had thirteen cats at the same time and we went through bags and bags of cat food to keep them fed.
Seraphina was one of the many cats. She loved to cuddle and had a purr like an engine on a “76 Mustang. But she had one bad habit: she liked to lick. She would rub her tongue over the same spot on your arm until your skin was red and raw. You held her knowing the risks. And forgave her because she was just too cute.
Have you ever met someone that reminded you of a cat’s tongue? They just rub you the wrong way, but you keep running into them? When this happens I get a wee bit judgmental, condescending, and downright annoyed. I swing a wide berth and take detailed notice of the cracks in the sidewalk. Anything. Any way around. Avoid at all costs. Mmmhmm. That’s a real loving response, isn’t it? Real Christ like, right?
But then I feel guilty. I know the scripture to love others as yourself. Many churches have “Love Others” as part of their vision for their church. But, man! It’s hard to live. I keep trying and failing, trying and failing. It gets downright discouraging and I wonder what’s the secret?
“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Luke 7:44-49 ESV
There’s a correlation between love and forgiveness. The more you need forgiveness the more you love. The more you love, the quicker forgiveness comes. It isn’t about going out and doing the worst of things so you can know the deepest of forgiveness. It’s recognizing that without Christ, no matter your past, you are meant for eternal separation from God.
That love of God? It’s crazy and wild and unexplainable. A consuming fire that overwhelms. It’s a kindness that draws us to repentance and a kindness that reveals the wretchedness of my heart’s state, but instead of condemning me it convicts me that without Christ, I cannot save myself.
Last week, we discussed the two indicators of unforgiveness and what we can do about them and why forgiveness can be hard.
Are you in tune with your own need for forgiveness? This strikes me in my heart because it’s far too easy for me to put on my superiority hat and think I’ve got it all going on.
I don’t. I wish I did, but each time I miss the mark, I remember the forgiveness Jesus offers. Does this mean that I can sin willy-nilly when I know better? No. I’d better not. That is abusing grace. If I know not to do something and do it anyway banking on the fact that Jesus will forgive me, I do Jesus a disservice and harm my witness to others.
If I know something good to do and don’t do it, is that still sin? It’s definitely disobedience and I sin. I act like I don’t love my family when I don’t use kindness in my tone. I lash out instead of being slow to speak and quick to listen.
What if we are so arrested by God’s love, and so in awe of who He is that we fall to our knees and we bring our alabaster jar, the very best of us, and pour it on Jesus?
What if we see choosing righteousness, aka: right living according to God’s standards, as an act of love and an outpouring of our everything for God? When we look at righteousness that way, the fact that we can’t do anything in our own strength becomes very clear.
There’s a direct correlation between our ability to forgive others and our understanding of how much we need forgiveness. Are you perfect? Do you pretend to be? Every misstep I make is a reminder that I am in desperate need for forgiveness and it’s in remembering my desperateness for forgiveness that enables me to extend forgiveness to those who wound me.
You know, we can walk around with our heads held high declaring our identity in Christ all we want, but if we fail to forgive others we’ve left behind a vital piece of our identity: forgiven.
Forgiveness becomes so much easier when we remember that our name is now “Forgiven.”
Our forgiveness overflows from the deep deep love we have for our Father God. Love him. Love him deeply. Focus on pouring your life, your treasure, out as an offering. Love your people as a sacrifice of love to God.
The next time you’re wounded, remember that you’ve been forgiven. Then extend forgiveness as an offering of Love to God.
Stay close to Jesus so you remember how much forgiveness He has given you.
Remember that love and forgiveness are related.
Loving others starts with receiving God’s love for you.