TODAY’S SIGNATURE VERSE ••• Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• My Grace-Full Life is written every morning with my iPhone’s Notes app. I don’t write it on my computer because there are too many opportunities for interruption… and as anyone who has been around me when I’m writing knows… I hate being interrupted when I’m writing. Depending on how focused I am, I’m not always very nice when I’m interrupted which can make devotion-writing a little awkward.
Yesterday, just as I was putting the finishing touches on the post, I wasn’t thinking and hit the delete button. After letting out a panicked gasp, I frantically started to shake my phone. (iPhone user tip: shaking your phone will un-do some, but as I learned yesterday, not all, actions.) The shaking did not retrieve the devotion. I was mentally telling myself to breathe and praying, “Please!” when I finally found the “Recently Deleted” bucket and was able to restore the post. Whew! Thank you, Apple Developers, for creating a holding place for inadvertent deletions.
I retrieved and posted, but then realized how grateful I am that God doesn’t have a holding place for my mistakes. When He says I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven. He chooses not to remember my mistakes after I repent (Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 43:25). However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t create my own version of a Mistakes Holding Cell. And not only do I store my own mistakes to beat myself up for later, I also store the mistakes of others so that when needed, I can retrieve those and revisit hurt feelings, analyze past failures, and (especially if I’m married to you or gave birth to you), use those things to make someone else feel guilty.
I’m not proud of this. I may be a Christian, but I’m far from perfect.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It’s one of those verses that we dutifully nod along to and agree with, but don’t necessarily follow very well. Actually, I think many of us might even admit that it’s a standard we hold others to, but look for loopholes and exceptions when it comes to our own accountability… Hey, don’t look at me. I’ve already admitted to this…
So what’s a Christian to do?? It’s a vicious cycle. We repent, God forgives. Then, we hold a grudge against someone who wronged us before admitting that holding the grudge was a sin. We ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven, and claim we forgive the one against whom we hold a grudge, but at the first offense, we reopen the past grudge and build on it. Then, we admit that holding the grudge (again) was a sin. We ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven and claim we forgive the one against whom we hold a grudge, but at the second offense… and so on.
(If you were able to follow that, my sincere congratulations! I am slow clapping you in admiration right now!)
We all do it. As I said, it’s a vicious cycle. How do we break it? Well, it starts with admitting that 1) we can’t. At least not with our strength. Forgiveness is something we need Jesus to effectively accomplish. And 2) we remember the words of Jesus… Matthew 6:14-15 quotes Jesus, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
How’s that for a hit-you-between-the-eyes-reality-check?? It makes me want to go board up my own Mistakes Holding Cell with a few hundred padlocks to which the combinations are burned; board up the door with some firmly installed steel crossbeams, and bury the whole thing in concrete. Maybe dump it in the ocean too, just to be safe.
But even with all that, I think I could get it open again with a crowbar.
Why is it so hard to give grace when we expect grace? Why is it so hard to forgive when we want to be forgiven? Sure, you have those handfuls of exceptions who seem to have it mastered, but they are weird and definitely do not represent the majority of us. The struggle is real.
The answer to it all is so simple, but we make it so hard. We need Jesus. Our inability to perfectly forgive ourselves and others is a universal flaw in humanity. But as James put it in James 4:6a, “But he gives more grace.”
Don’t you love that?! “But he gives more grace.” And then, “…he gives more grace.” After that, “…he gives more grace.” And so on. God is so good, y’all!
It’s likely none of us will ever have this forgiveness thing mastered this side of heaven. We may do it really well for one occasion, but that doesn’t mean we will for the next… so no one has room to get cocky or complacent here… But staying close to Jesus will help. Remembering what He did for us is crucial. Understanding the depth of our own depravity and the truth that “…he gives more grace” is the foundation of how we go full circle back to Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for modeling forgiveness, even on the cross as He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34b). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember the grace that has been poured out on you so that you can be empowered to pour it out on others. Ask Him to give you a heart that is soft enough to forgive, especially when you are tempted to hold a grudge.
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