Why do we need to be more patient with one another? More willing to forgive? And more at peace? There are a lot of emotional and psychological reasons I’ve learned. More peace means less stress, for example. But in doing so we also learn to appreciate more the depth of God’s love.
Think of it this way. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean they forgive you. They may not even accept your forgiveness. In the end, you may need to be so much more patient than you could have ever imagined. And some people take your peace as a personal offense.
What happens then?
An important part of our identity in Christ is becoming more like our Lord. The first sermon Jesus preached was one he repeated often. Repent for the kingdom of God is near. Repentance is not saying sorry. It is changing your mind and the way you think. To repent is to change the attitudes of your heart and the way you live.
How many of us struggle with offering forgiveness to someone that doesn’t make it easy? If they don’t respond the way we want them to, aren’t we less likely to offer it next time? It’s okay to admit that’s who we are. That’s how we know what needs to be changed.
But we are learning, more and more, that’s not who God is. God is love. Lord, forgive us when we take that as a sentimental notion. The love of God is not sappy emotions. It is a scandal (1 Corinthians 1:18). As difficult as it can be for us to show mercy, how many of us would be able to follow through with a calling like Hosea’s?
Yet his entire relationship with his wife, as tumultuous as it must have been, is a reminder of who God is. Hosea was to love his wife while she was unfaithful because God loves us even in our unfaithfulness. We can “Amen!” that, for sure. But what happens afterward and you’re in a position to forgive or show love to an enemy?
To know if you understand and appreciate what God’s love really means, look at how willing you are to be gracious and merciful, patient and loving to others.