Forgiveness and Love
We are presently going through C.S. Lewis’s famous book, “Mere Christianity” and touching on some of the high-lights. This book is all about describing Christian beliefs. Today we will touch on the Christian beliefs concerning forgiveness and love.
C.S. Lewis insists that he didn’t invent Christianity when he discusses the fact that Christians are commanded to forgive. Right there in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12) Jesus made it perfectly clear here, and also in other portions of Scripture, that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. But sometimes forgiving another person is very difficult. Impossible in our own strength! So, what are we to do?
God wouldn’t ask us to do anything that would be impossible for us to do. But sometimes forgiving a really bad enemy would be impossible for us to do - in our own strength. But then that’s where God comes in. God promises to be there with us and help us with the impossible things in our lives. And that means He will give us the strength and power to forgive our really bad enemies - if we ask Him to. (Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 7;7-8, Luke 11:9) Help is there for us if we want it. We just need to ask and then stand on God’s promises!
Lewis insists that the Christian teaching of forgiveness does not call us to reduce the hatred we feel for cruelty or treachery or for any other sin or crime. Forgiving doesn’t mean saying that the sin isn’t so bad! We ought to hate sin. And forgiving a person who has sinned does not mean that that person is not to be punished by the law if a crime has been committed.
We are to hate the sin but love the sinner! When you are trying to obey God’s command to forgive, try picturing the person you are forgiving the way God created him or her to be. God created all persons to be good. Pray that the one you are forgiving, the one who sinned, will become the good person he or she was meant to be. Give this person to God and pray that he or she will be changed.
Sometimes we can feel resentment towards this bad person or group we are trying to forgive. We would like to hurt their reputation or their feelings or put them down. Each time these feelings pop up in our minds we must put them down. God is not only calling us to “do” the right thing, but also to “think” the right thing! Thought patrol?! That’s what the Good Book says! We are instructed in Scripture to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Instead of hating the bad person or group, we are commanded to bless our enemies and pray for them. (Luke 6:28, Matthew 5:44) It is hard work, but not impossible. God can love them through us. God has commanded us to forgive and forgiveness is hard work.
We are to give this person we are trying to forgive over to God and let Him deal with the sin that they committed. We should not try to get revenge ourselves. Scripture says that God will take care of the person who hurt us or who stole from us. Vengeance belongs to God and to Him alone. Paying the sinner back for his sin is God’s job, not ours. (Romans 12:19), Deuteronomy 32:35)
We move on to the topic of Christian love. We Christians are commanded to love God with all our hearts, minds and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37: Deuteronomy 6:5) C.S. Lewis suggests that we not waste time worrying whether we ‘love’ our neighbor. He advises that we act as if we love our neighbor that soon we will find one of the great secrets in life. That secret is that when we behave as if we love someone, we will presently come to love him or her.
When we obey God’s command to forgive and love, we become more loving with each decision we make to obey and love. We learn to love a little more each time we choose to love and soon loving ways become a habit. And good habits become our good character. That is why little decisions we make every day have such infinite importance. Good choices or evil choices can increase at compound interest in our lives.
Christian love, either towards God or towards other people is an affair of the will. Though our loving feelings may come and go, God’s love for us does not. He always loves us. God’s love is not wearied by our sins, or our indifferences. And His love is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of all our sins, at whatever cost to us, and at whatever cost to Him.
Many of the teachings in this blog were taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity.”