Friday, May 27, 2011

Do Unto Others as Christ Has Done Unto You

I have been a Christian for more than 20 years and have come to realize through my walk with the Lord and all the peaks and valleys that spiritual growth is tied most closely to one thing – our ability to forgive others. The world tells us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which sounds nice on the surface but the biblical standard is much higher. The Bible tells us to “do unto others as Christ has done unto you.” Our forgiveness is to be like Christ’s and mirror the total forgiveness that Christ exercised on our behalf.

C.S. Lewis describes Christian forgiveness this way, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard…how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.”

I must admit that it is hard for me to contemplate the love that the Lord has for me as I realize my own sin and shortcomings. Why does He forgive me so much? How is it that He is able to say to me and you that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).

I think what can be overwhelming as we contemplate forgiveness is to realize that it is not something that happens in a day or in a moment. I truly believe forgiveness is a process and a spiritual battle. We have to be diligent to continue to forgive as we are offended or as thoughts of someone who has offended us pop into our heads. It is always through the process that God works in us. He has the result in hand but the journey to the result is what conforms us into the image of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is a transformation that happens day by day. The big "a-ha" moments that we experience are really just a composite of our continual yielding to the Holy Spirit as “God works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

I also believe unforgiveness, which eventually turns into bitterness, is one of the devil’s greatest strategies for nullifying our service. It is impossible to serve the Lord and have a fruitful ministry with seeds of unforgiveness in our hearts. But so often we feel justified in our anger and hurt but those feelings are only turned into forgiveness as we come to the cross. At the core a Christian is a lover of Christ and His cross. This fact alone is generally repulsive to the world who comprehend the meaning of the cross in a variety of ways. Some see it as a symbol of a humiliating execution. Others view it as a picture of a pitiful man who claimed to be God but died as a criminal. For others it represents a denial of all the sensual pleasures they enjoy in life. And some simply perceive it as a piece of jewelry to be displayed around one’s neck. For the Christian, however, the cross is not only the symbol of our salvation, it is the blueprint for our lives. It is at the cross that we understand unconditional love, the true cost of sin, and its ultimate defeat. It is here, at the foot of Calvary, where the ground is level at everyone’s feet that we find the grace to forgive others and nowhere else.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the Welsh Protestant minister, preacher, and medical doctor who was influential in the reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century, acutely understood this reciprocal nature of forgiveness when he stated, “I say to the glory of God and in utter humility that whenever I see myself before God and realize even something of what my blessed Lord has done for me, I am ready to forgive anybody anything.”

Let this be our mindset also.

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