Forgiveness is God’s invitation to experience the benefits of His family. The words, “forgive,” “forgiven,” and “forgiveness” appear in Scripture over one hundred times. By examining scriptural examples of God’s forgiveness, we discover a lot about His heart and nature. We learn why God is motivated to forgive.
Scripture tells us that God “is” love (1 John 4:7-8). Thus, everything He does must be a result of His loving nature. God’s loving nature is what motivates Him to forgive. God’s love for His offspring is stronger and purer than any parent’s love. As the embodiment of love, God can’t help Himself!
God’s loving nature is what motivates Him to forgive.
We can assume that God knew His offspring would err, for He knows all things. So if His intentions were to be realized, He had to have a remedy in mind. A forgiver from the start, God’s loving essence was prepared!
Too often we overlook the fact that God sent Jesus Christ into the world as a representation of His love. In the life and death of His unique son Jesus, God revealed His forgiveness and demonstrated that His forgiving love is sufficient for each of us.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life ( John 3:16).
God sent Jesus into the earth as His gift to proclaim, display, manifest, and demonstrate His forgiving heart. He revealed His deep love for us in a very personal way, in the life of Christ. No one can earn, win, or purchase God’s forgiveness; it is His loving gift to His wayward offspring!
Restored Through Forgiveness
God loves each of His offspring, even though we go astray. As the originator of forgiveness, our heavenly Father is the ultimate master of restoration. Have you realized the amazing truth that God prefers to restore us into intimate relationship through forgiveness rather than rectify our error through punishment?
Notice how God has called and interacted since the beginning of Old Testament days. He, as a great Father, continued to draw people into a fellowship with His Presence. An example is found when God gave Israel the Ten Commandments. He instructed Moses to go up to Mount Sinai and God spoke to Moses:
The LORD passed by…and proclaimed, “The LORD…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness…who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty
unpunished (Hebrew – unclean).” (Exodus 34:6-7).
The Hebrew word, appropriately translated as “unclean,” offers insight into God’s intended restoration. God’s forgiveness restores us so we can be better children. He harbors no desire to condemn anyone. Always after what is best for us, He does not want to leave any of us separated from His loving care.
God’s forgiveness restores us so we can be better children.
Yes, God sees our shortcomings, and yet, as a great Father, He is patiently diligent. His eternal view allows Him to see beyond our separating activity and readily welcome us into His loving care. As the Prodigal Son’s Father, God welcomes repentant children with open arms. Having no desire to leave any of us in our mess; God continuously calls us, to restore us into fellowship.
No Limitations to God’s Forgiveness
There are no restrictions or limitations to God’s forgiveness, nor is His forgiveness passive. The Message Bible records God’s grace in Romans 5:20 as “aggressive forgiveness.” “Aggressive” is a very powerful word that may raise some questions about God’s motive. “A forceful determination to get something done” is a helpful definition. In other words, God is relentless in seeking our restoration.
You may wonder if it is really possible for God, who knows everything, to completely forgive and forget. This seems like a real paradox; however, we can reasonably assume that God is able to do anything He wants because He is supreme. So, if God chooses to not keep an account of our errors, in essence, what He forgives is no longer relevant—as forgotten.
God is relentless in seeking our restoration.
Though impossible for us to fully comprehend, God’s love for us is so full that He forgives us without reserve. His remedy for our error is to forgivingly restore, to clean us up! Scripture clearly tells us that His correcting disciplines are always meant to help us:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
Give Ourselves to Being Restored
Forgiveness is God’s open invitation for us to partake of the freedom of salvation’s transforming ways. While God’s forgiveness is freely given, we only receive the full benefits of His love by actively receiving it.
God has given us free will and we have responsibility to do our part by responding. We are to give ourselves to being restored! We are unable to receive full restoration if we have a hardened heart and remain separated from Him. This is what is meant by repentance, turning toward changing our ways rather than continuing to turn away from God’s guidance.
Lack of repentance keeps us captive to destructive thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
God does not want our lack of repentance to keep us captive to destructive thoughts, attitudes, and actions. When we reject our erroneous ways and turn toward God, we position ourselves to receive the full forgiveness God has given.
Forgiveness Is Love’s Overwhelming Expression
Through Scripture, God clearly communicates His desire and motivation to forgive. With such full forgiveness toward each of us, shouldn’t we also be motivated to forgive? God desires His example to be the primary basis for how we live.
Recall for a minute when you have made a mistake. Can you remember the response and actions of those impacted by your error? It’s likely the scenario within your memory evokes less than positive thoughts and emotions. For the most part, our blunders are met with a negative response.
Now, imagine the same scenario again. If instead of criticism and perhaps a tongue-lashing, you were told something positive about yourself; how would you have responded? It’s nearly impossible to imagine that happening, isn’t it? Unfortunately, our human nature tends to default to expressing the negative, finding fault, and degrading the guilty.
Expressing lovingkindness through forgiveness is powerful to restore from error.
There are exceptions however, and we can learn much from them. The Babemba tribe in southern Africa knows something of the power of forgiveness to restore a tribal member from the error of his ways. When one of them violates the tribal code of conduct, they are placed unfettered in the center of the village. Life in the village comes to a halt as everyone— adults and children alike—gather in a circle around the accused.
Tribal members do not pick up stones to cast, or speak a negative word against the guilty party. They do just the opposite! One by one, they loudly share something positive they can remember about the person. Affirmations include good qualities, deeds, strengths, and all the kindnesses the culprit has ever done.
At the end of the well-saying (some go on for days!) the circle breaks up. Everyone participates in a joyful celebration, welcoming the newly affirmed member back into the tribe. Anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behaviors are rare among them. Why? Following God’s example, they are masters at restoring the guilty one from the trespass that ensnared them.
Powerful Motivation to Forgive
The lovingkindness that is resident in God’s gift of forgiveness is very powerful, as seen in the Babemba example. God must have shared this insight with the Babemba tribe. Wouldn’t our lives and relationships be much healthier if we followed their example? An overwhelming affirmation of rightness in anyone’s life is a powerful motivation to do the right thing.
An overwhelming affirmation of rightness in anyone’s life
is a powerful motivation to do the right thing.
Our forgiving God wants to help us become forgivers. He comes to us today as a Presence, to soften our heart toward Him, help us change our ways, and receive the full restoration of His forgiveness. By accepting and walking in the fullness of God’s restoration, we progressively gain His heart perspective. In turn, He enables us to actively reflect His love and offer loving forgiveness to others. Will you allow His forgiveness to transform you into expressions of His love?
Keith Carroll, Relational Gospel Founder
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