When You Forgive, You Love

One of our New Year’s traditions is to watch TMC’s annual tribute to the actors, writers, and directors who passed away in the previous year. It is a sentimental overview of each one’s life and contribution to the movie arts. Every year it makes us sad, but appreciative. This year there was a very brief tribute to the great Hal Holbrook that caught my attention. They showed a clip from a Jon Krakauer movie called Into the Wild. Holbrook was talking to a young man and said this amazing line: “When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines on you.”

As we say in my industry, that will preach.

It occurs to me in this first week of the new year that many of us are going into 2022 with the same grudges we carried in 2021 … and perhaps longer. There is a certain hypocrisy in that for believers. We fully expect that God will forgive our sins … in fact, we are counting on it. We know that Christ died for our sins, and we believe that when we approach the throne of grace with repentant hearts, our sins will be forgiven. This is the Gospel promise.

But when it comes to forgiving others, we sometimes set a higher standard than the one God sets for us. We hold onto hurts and offenses like they are oxygen masks on a plane that is crashing. We tell them over and over to anyone who will listen. We hurl them in the face of the one who inflicted the pain every chance we get. We rarely let a new argument pass without bringing up these ancient wounds, using them like a weapon to re-inflict pain back into the relationship. But rather than give us life, grudge-holding and unforgiveness only take us down in flames with the burning plane.

Listen to the wisdom that Proverbs 17 offers:

Proverbs 17 (Names of God Bible)

Whoever forgives an offense seeks love,
    but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends.

This is a hard lesson today. It will require some soul searching. When an offense has become a comfortable blanket in which we wrap ourselves as a defense against the coldness of the offender, we can easily forget that God calls us to a higher account. We are reminded to forgive, even in those awful moments where forgiveness is not being sought. We are reminded to stop throwing the sin in the face of the offender.

We are reminded to seek love.

But truly, God’s direction to forgive is really for your own benefit. When you forgive, YOU are released from the offense. When you forgive, the memory of it can finally be given over to God and you don’t have to carry its heavy burden anymore. When you forgive, the prison of hurt, anger, and pain that you were trapped in is finally opened wide. You were the prisoner of the offense, not your offender, and only forgiveness can make you free.

This is not a call to forget. Remembering the source of pain helps us avoid it the next time. No one is supposed to remain in an abusive relationship after forgiveness. That is not God’s plan. Forgiving and walking away without holding onto the grudge is the best way to set ourselves free.

Are you holding onto a grudge? Do you bring up old hurts when you argue with someone you love? Do you dwell so much on past offenses that you can’t see the beauty of today?

Set yourself free. Forgive the offense and seek love. And when you love, God’s light shines on you.

God’s Light Will Set You Free by Michelle Robertson

The Power of Love

The power of guilt is something that can overtake an entire life and crush it with the strength of an oncoming avalanche. I saw this firsthand at a women’s retreat I attended many years ago. A participant sought me out after a very emotional worship experience where people were invited to give over their guilt, sins, burdens, and shame in an act of “dying moments.” The invitation was to process those life-long secrets and figuratively place them at the foot of the cross and “die to them” by letting them go.

This particular woman had about twenty years worth of crushing heaviness to lift up. She told me her story in gasps and sobs as we sat under a piano until 3 a.m. It included drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activity, adultery, an abortion she had never told anyone about, and the eventual loss of her marriage and children. It all came spilling out that night. She was dead inside.

Ephesians 2 (Common English Bible)

2 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

This is exactly where this woman was in her journey. She had lived a life of disobedience to God’s will. She spent her life doing things that “felt good” and subsequently lost her life to those things.

4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

And so here she was sitting with a strange pastor in the middle of the night and it all came out. Her greatest struggle was believing that with all that she had done, God would still be able to forgive her. She kept saying that her behavior was unforgivable. She was unredeemable. She was “unworthy.”

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

When she had finally exhausted herself, I calmly asked her if she thought that she was stronger or greater than Jesus. The question took her aback and she said no, of course not. I went on to explain that there is no sin greater than his activity on the cross and so it takes a certain kind of arrogance to think that OUR sin is the one so great and unforgivable that his death couldn’t obliterate it forever. To Jesus, she IS that worthy.

Otherwise the cross is a joke.

The next day, this woman woke up and knew for the first time in her life that she was forgiven, redeemed, and freed of her sins. She was a brand new creation in Christ. Hallelujah!

We are God’s accomplishment. Salvation is not something we possess on our own. It’s not something we did and now we can be proud of ourselves. And the opposite is true: there is nothing we’ve done that is so bad it can’t be forgiven. That’s the power of love.

You were created in Christ Jesus to do good things. Receive his forgiveness and go forth in your new life.

Cleansed by the Water by Jess Spiegelblatt


The word relentless conjures up so many images. The helpful salesman at the car dealership. Athletes preparing for the Olympics. Perfume-sample people at the mall. Wrestlers. A two-year-old. The pace of the music in Hamilton.

To be relentless is to show no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace: to be unrelenting. Relentless people have a stick-to-itiveness that others lack: they get the job done. I often think that had I been relentless in my piano practicing, I might actually play the piano today. I do not. Somewhere along the way, other things crowded in and I lost my momentum. Has that ever happened to you?

One thing that is completely relentless is God’s love for you.

Romans 8 (The Message)

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger?

The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.

It doesn’t matter who you are.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone backwards.

It doesn’t matter how deep your sin is, how high your disobedience gets, how wide your lies are, or how narrow your hope is.

It doesn’t matter.

God’s love for you and his RELENTLESS forgiveness will follow you to the depths of hell and bring you back. Nothing can get between you and God’s relentless love because of the way that Jesus has embraced you.

So the next time you fall flat on your face and can’t get up, remember that God put his life on the line for you, and NOTHING…not trouble, not hatred, not hard times, or hunger….NOTHING can separate you from the great love of God through Jesus Christ, our relentless savior.

Winter Shrimpers by Michelle Robertson