Living in a world filled with imperfect people, we are bound to receive offence, even from those we consider friends. How should we respond when we are offended?
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”Proverbs 17:9
In a culture where putting yourself first, burning bridges and cutting people off is glorified, Christians have an opportunity to live out their holy identity and be set apart from the patterns of the world, if we allow our lives to be shaped by the life and teachings of Jesus. The issue of friendship and forgiveness is fundamental to the Christian faith.
This article will explore the relationship between self-righteousness and unforgiveness and contrast it with the relationship between love and forgiveness. It is my prayer that this article will serve to renew your mind as you read and equip you for Christ-like living within the context of friendship and forgiveness, in Jesus’ name.
Self-righteousness is akin to unforgiveness.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35).
This verse from the parable taught by Jesus to his disciples of the unforgiving servant. It speaks of a servant who lost sight of the faults he had towards his master and held the sin of his fellow servant against him. This mirrors the believer who holds his friend’s sin against them because they’ve lost sight of their own faults before God and how God has forgiven them.
James asserts that ‘the person who is friends with the world makes himself an enemy of God’ (James 4:4). No human being is sinless and it’s through sin we enter friendship with the world and enmity against God. Jesus’ response was to demonstrate his love by dying for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). In his dialogue with the disciples, Jesus told that ‘he no longer calls them servants but friends’ (John 15:15). He them told them that ‘greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life for one’s friend’.
The reality is we were created to serve God, but we sinned against him and made an enemy out of him, but he never lost sight of us as his friends. It is his love that compelled him to lay down his life for us in forgiveness and it’s our fault against him that led him to the cross.
If we have the right perspective about how we’re saved, then we are equipped to love people the way we’ve been loved by Christ. The major obstacle is self-righteousness because it’s set against the self-awareness and humility causes the forgiven to have. Like the unforgiven servant, it is possible to have lost sight of how Jesus offered you love, forgiveness and friendship, to hold your friend’s sin against them.
Humility and self-awareness give precedent to love and forgiveness.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
The context of this verse was Jesus explaining the reason behind Mary of Bethany’s extravagant worship when she anointed his feet with an expensive oil using her hair. Jesus boiled it down to the fact that she acknowledged how much she’d been forgiven.
Jesus taught that great love is laying down your life for those who wronged you, and he practised what he taught. It’s important to also understand that his teaching on the obstacle to loving like him is a lack of acknowledgement of how much we’ve been forgiven.
If we were honest with ourselves, we can think of the times we’ve wronged a loved one and the gratitude we felt when our wrong was covered by their love. This doesn’t mean we can’t address the faults we have with our friends. In fact, Jesus encourages us to, in Matthew 18:6, as he says ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.’ The following verses also give instructions on what we should do if they refuse to listen. However, the scripture’s response isn’t immediately cutting them off.
Our capacity for love and forgiveness within the context of friendship is first rooted in humility and self-awareness.
Understanding our own propensity for faults against people and ultimately God. The root then branches out into seeing the way Jesus responded in love and forgiveness and the fruit is embodying Jesus’ love and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Will it be easy? Probably not, but this process has served me personally in responding with love and forgiveness. God gives grace to the humble, and forgiveness always requires humility. If we would depend on him, he will grace us to love and forgive our friends the way he’s loved and forgiven us.