After a gunman killed 26 worshipers at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the pastor preached a message of forgiveness. Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose teenage daughter had also been killed in the attack, said, “We have the freedom to take that building that was attacked, transform it with the love of God into a memorial to remind everyone that we will never forget. And if anybody knows me, what is my verse? Love never fails.”
The pastor preached a message of the freedom to choose between hate and love. Do we react to sin with rage and anger, or do we choose the path of forgiveness?
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians addresses a number of difficult church disciplinary situations. Wrong had been done within the church, and someone had offended and been punished. But rather than continue to condemn and hold a grudge against the offender, Paul advises the church that the punishment itself was sufficient, and “now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him” (v. 7). This forgiveness was an expression of their Christian love and fellowship: “I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him” (v. 8).
The impulse to refuse to forgive the offender, Paul pointed out, is from Satan himself, who wants to “outwit us” (v. 11). A lack of forgiveness causes division and pain to linger. The path of forgiveness instead provides healing and restoration.
While the human urge is to hold on to hatred, forgiveness becomes part of our regular practice as believers because we are part of the triumphal procession of Christ (v. 14). This stunning willingness to forgive does not go unnoticed by the world; it is an “aroma” that points them to God Himself (v. 15).
Do your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers smell the sweet fragrance of Jesus’ forgiveness in your life, or the stench of harsh judgment and refusal to extend mercy to others? Prayerfully consider whether your next conversation, meeting, or social media post can share the “aroma that brings life” to those around you (v. 16).