Forgive One Another
"Be kind to one another" does not stand alone in Ephesians 4:32. Paul went on to provide a fuller description of kindness in speech and action. First, he added that we should be tenderhearted toward each other. Then he concluded that we should be forgiving one another. Forgiveness is just as much a command as "Be kind" is. Forgiveness is a necessary part of our church life because of one unavoidable but ugly reality-the principle of sin remains in our bodies, regardless of our new natures. We should not be surprised when another church member sins against us. Hurt, saddened, and concerned, yes, but not completely surprised. The command to forgive presupposes that offenses will happen. By grace we should try to limit and avoid those hurtful moments, but they will happen. The right response, however, is just as clearly expected. Forgiveness, which means the restoration of a broken relationship, must be willingly offered to a repentant brother or sister. Paul elevates forgiveness beyond our natural standards by adding that our forgiveness should be just like God's in Christ. God did not ignore our sin and pretend it did not happen. Instead, He punished Christ in order to restore our broken relationship with Him. He did not smooth over the offense; He entirely removed it. The Gospel determines what our forgiveness should look like. Those who have known gracious forgiveness should be the first to offer it. Failure to forgive is a failure to grasp and live the Gospel. As our Lord has forgiven us, so must we forgive (Col. 3:13).