What causes someone to be able to speak truth and control their anger? What leads a person to reject evil, to stop stealing and start sharing, and to lift others up rather than tearing them down? What strengthens kindness so that it outweighs negativity? What causes radical transformations?
Paul instructs those who have clothed themselves with a new life in Christ to live in a new way. That might sound too overwhelming if Paul hadn’t written the last sentence in this chapter. The key to being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another lies in his final clause: as God in Christ has forgiven you (v. 32).
When I was a boy, I joined a baseball game in an empty lot. Four brothers were playing. One was nicknamed “Cotton,” because of his white hair. His siblings treated him harshly. I wondered why they were so mean. I later discovered that they learned their mean behavior in a dysfunctional family. When they were being ridiculed, they channeled their resentment and anger to Cotton. The cycle of dysfunction is often passed down.
Paul says that such cycles of negativity, selfishness, and destruction, can be broken. We can experience radical transformation through the one who offers us forgiveness. Jesus broke the pattern of needing to be mean to protect ourselves, of needing to fight fire with fire, of needing to tear someone down in order to get even. The forgiveness found in Christ and extended through us combats bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, and malice. Radical transformation is possible when we look to Jesus’ choice to forgive and then seek to imitate him. With forgiveness he breaks the dysfunctional systems of our lives. Whenever we forgive others and ourselves, we participate in Christ’s work.
How does the forgiveness Christ offers you radically transform your life?
Lord, help me grow more aware of your forgiveness. Help me allow the power of it to open the door to a new way of life. Amen.