Forgiveness as Imperative and Imitation

For the Christ follower, forgiveness is not a choice. Forgiveness is a command. It is a command, however, that has been lived and modeled for us by Jesus. In the New Testament, forgiveness is an imperative to follow and a model to be imitated. These two themes will be looked at briefly.

Forgiveness as Imperative

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive (ἀφίετε), if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive (ἀπολύετε), and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
In both passages the verb for forgive is in the imperative mood. “Forgive” is a divine command issued without exception to God’s people. It is a responsibility, a must laid upon us if we belong to God.
Forgiveness as Imitation

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:29-5:2).
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Commanded forgiveness is intended to take on a certain form or shape. The mold of forgiveness into which we are to conform is the sacrifice of Christ. The hinge conjunction “as” draws out this point in both of the above passages. Forgiveness is not formless and void. It has the contours of a ragged, splintered cross. It is a forgiveness that costs and bleeds. The more we understand and think on the grace of the cross the better we will understand the way we are to engage with those who have wronged us.

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