Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
While many pastors focus on the imperative to “be kind” and its attendant “forgiveness”, often overlooked is that the ultimate motivation for us to forgive other fallible human beings lies in the forgiveness that we ourselves received from God.
Forgiveness is not not found necessarily in words, but is demonstrated. Love for fallen human beings motivated God to forgive us through the work of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6). While much can be said about God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness of one another for things mundane or critical should be motivated by that same thing which motivated God: Love!
The apostle Paul used a term that is often translated “tenderhearted” to describe the compassion of a person as he or she looks at the plight of another. That strong, intense focus on the one who wronged us should move our focus to how we have wronged God and yet he still forgave us.
Forgiving others is not our first thought when we are wronged. It is not natural for us to forgive. In fact, it is impossible to forgive another human being in the same way that God forgave us unless we forgive in Christ. It is Christ’s redemption work that provides the foundation for us to forgive one another.
Therefore, since God forgave us much we are able to forgive others much for their inconsistencies, failed promises, and pain they caused us (and hopefully others will forgive us for our own failures as well.)