There are certain sins God deals with quickly, but overall His patience is immense. Remember that Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes song “Up Where We Belong”? Bebe & Cece Winans redid it as a “Christian” song and replaced “love” with “Lord”:
Lord lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles fly on a mountain high
Lord lift us up where we belong
Up from the worlds we know
Where the clear winds blow
Sadly, their theology is way off because according to the Bible, where do you and I belong? That’s right, in Hell (and the last thing we’d want to do is ask God to put us where we really belong). It is only by God’s patient, eternal grace and will that we are not there right now, nor will be eternally if we are in Christ:
- Numbers 14:18-19 “‘The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’ Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
God is so very patient with us, so why are we so impatient with each other? (I’m immensely more patient nowadays than I was 15, even 20 years ago, but trust me, there’s still a very impatient side to me, especially with those closest to me).
But, what are the results of not being patient, gracious, and forgiving? They turn into a bitterness that creeps up and eats us from the inside out. They turn into hatred. They turn into divisions in the church and a tarnished (even destroyed) testimony to the lost and dying world.
Sadly, I’ve encountered people in the past who thought they could harbor bitterness and anger against their brothers and sisters in Christ and still be good to go with God. Many believed they were justified to be angry and unforgiving. My fear is that an unloving, ungracious, unforgiving spirit is evidence that many of these people are just not saved. Each of us must evaluate our own hearts, not based on a prayer we said years ago, and not based on growing up “Christian” in church. We must evaluate our hearts based on whether they show evidence of transformation towards godliness, and a forgiving spirit is one of those markers we should see in our lives.
- Hebrews 12:14-17 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
- In this passage the writer, earlier in verses 6-8, discussed whether or not we receive disciplining from God. If we do, then we’re His children (because whom He loves He will chasten/discipline as a loving Father), but if we don’t receive discipline, then we’re called “bastards” or “illegitimate children” (depending on your Bible translation).
- Compare this passage with Philippians 2:12 and write your comparisons here: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- How can a person claim to be a Christian but not forgive others? ________________________________________
- If that same person claims to be a Christian, disobeys God’s requirements that we forgive each other, and never receives chastening from God, what does the Bible say about that person’s actual salvation? _______________________________________________
- But, we’re not to be seeking out the sliver in other peoples’ eyes, but to be concerned for the telephone pole in our own eyes. As such, please reflect on your heart’s place for grace and forgiveness, especially if you are harboring bitterness towards people you’ve never forgiven.
- Leviticus 19:16 “Do not go about spreading slander among your people; do not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am the LORD.”
- Leviticus 19:17 “Do not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him.”
- Leviticus 19:18 “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”
- Notice here that God puts a premium on loving each other and demonstrating that love. Lip service does not impress Him—love in action does.
- Do a concordance search (again, you can use www.blueletterbible.org if you don’t have one already, and you can choose your preferred Bible version if you don’t want to use the default King James Version) and note some verses that speak against:
- Gossip: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Slander: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Look up I. John 4:7-8. Break down the verses and think about each point John is telling us. Notate those things here: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- So, I parked my brand new, custom ordered 1995 black Chevy S-10 Blazer 4X4 at church and went inside. It wasn’t long after that my friend came up to me and apologized that he opened his car door and not paying attention to it the wind swung it into my new truck, leaving a very noticeable gouge in my door. UGH! Instant anger, “How could you be so irresponsible” thoughts rushed in my mind, and more UGH!
- Now maybe something like that has happened to you. Your immediate response of anger maybe normal (though how you express it may not be acceptable). But, did you harbor (i.e. not let go of) anger, or were you forgiving? ___________________________________
- What are some verses and biblical mindsets that you can have in your mental arsenal to ensure you don’t let things like this ruin your unity and fellowship if and when something like that happens? (and trust me, I’ve had other similar things happen to me as well, so I’m pretty you have too) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Some things on earth are irreplaceable—but does anything physical on this earth really matter? ______________________
- Then ensure you don’t let the temporary things of earth ever get in between you and forgiveness, grace, and love.