Lenten Devotional, April 2: By Tate Shannon

When I read my Bible, I end up asking a lot of questions: "What does that mean?" "What's the context?" "How does this apply to me?" or even, "That didn't make sense; what’d he just say?" Sometimes things feel ambiguous or just a little too abnormal to be applicable to my life. Even so, there’s at least one thing where there’s no ambiguity.

This is a lot of reading, but bear with me. The scripture is a better teacher than I’ll ever be and these passages are particularly good at dividing my soul, spirit, and joints and revealing the attitudes of my heart:

  • For this devotion, read Mat 5:23-24, 5:38-48, 6:12-16, 11:35, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:27, 6:37, 17:3-4, Eph 4:31-32, and Col 3:13. 
  • For poignant stories on the topic, read Mat 18:21-35, Luke 15:11-32, John 8:1-11 
  • For stark examples of what this looks like in our lives, read Rom 12 (esp. vv. 17-21), and Acts 7 (esp. vv. 54-60).
  • And finally read Luke 23:26-34 remembering what Heb 9:22 teaches us.

There’s no way around it. My forgiving others is required for my own forgiveness. This is the most difficult part of forgiveness. Because we live as reflections of Jesus for those around us, we must do the same thing that Stephen did before the Sanhedrin and that Jesus did on the cross. We must, even when people slap us, steal from us, and sin against us seven times a day. We have to do it before we pray or offer our gifts to God, but the problem is that I don’t feel capable—I don’t feel like I have the capacity for so much grace.

This is a good time to remember the parable above: How much must we forgive in comparison to the amount we’ve been forgiven? By God’s grace, we know that if we sin against Him seven times a day or seventy times seven times a day, He is faithful to forgive. We know all good things that proceed from our lives are direct results of the Holy Spirit working through us, sanctifying our hearts and minds.

These are the keys to forgiveness: we forgive because we have been forgiven. We are able to forgive because the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so. We are given grace so that we can give it. We’re filled until we overflow and can’t help but live our lives as Jesus lived His. All grace belongs to God, whether we experience it from Him, from those around us, or from ourselves to others. This is also very clear from scripture: ask Him for the ability to forgive, and He will give it to you.

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