We often discuss the importance of living out “I’m Third”––putting Jesus first, others second and yourself third. It’s core to the mission of Kanakuk, and it's core to the mission of God. In fact, in Mark 12:28-31, when a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he responded by saying, “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Doing this isn’t always easy! But the power of these words is knowing that when we love Jesus with all that we have, it becomes second nature to treat others with love and respect––just as we would like to be treated.
One of the most difficult aspects of loving others like Jesus does is often forgiveness. Although when we sin against our friends, parents, leaders or siblings, we know that our first priority is to ask for forgiveness in prayer and with the person we hurt––and we find peace knowing that God is quick to forgive us and change our hearts, sometimes we struggle to give others the same grace. But this is at the heart of our Heavenly Father, and it was at the very center of His perfect plan to redeem the lost! When He sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life, die on the cross and rise again, it was so that we might experience true freedom through His unconditional love.
Jesus spoke specifically about the importance of forgiveness for us in Matthew 18:21-22. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” And Jesus responds, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” No need to do math here––the point is that we have been offered endless forgiveness, and because we seek to reflect Jesus, we should give out forgiveness and compassion in the same way.
When Jesus freely gives forgiveness to us, we have received freedom from the bondage of sin and shame. When we’re set free, we are able to fully live out the life God intended for us––one of endless joy, purpose and promise! When we do the same for others, we allow them to let go of the same shame that holds them back from being who God has also called them to be, and we allow God to take away any bitterness or resentment we might feel toward them. It’s really a win-win situation!
Forgiveness isn’t easy–– in fact, it’s nearly impossible on our own. But when we lift up our battles to God, He is quick to change our hearts and give us more compassion and love for those around us than we could imagine. Because we know He has called us to give endless forgiveness and mercy as He did, we also know He will equip us to act in that! The key is that we aren’t doing this on our own. We get to rest in the fact that by knowing, loving and serving Him, we are ready and able to do the same for others in ways we could never do in our strength.
What holds you back from forgiveness? Take time today to reflect on this and lift up to God those you need a heart change to forgive!