People are tricky. Hurtful, even. We all have deep and painful memories of hurts caused by people.
And sometimes the sharpest arrows shot in our direction come from those we least expect: fellow Christians.
Christian discord and disagreement can be hard to put a finger on. If we are all one family, adopted by God and redeemed by Him, how is it that we even have relationship difficulties with each other?
Sometimes we forget that we are still humans. Sinners. And so are they.
There will be friction between any people, whether or not they believe in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it can even be harder to forgive a fellow Christian because our expectations for them are higher and the relationship is—or should be—deeper.
So what do we do when hurt happens?
Charge It to My Account
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).
After reading this passage, late theologian Jerry Bridges wrote in The Blessing of Humility: “In effect, Paul is saying that we don’t have a choice: Because we have been forgiven so much, we have an obligation to forgive those who sin against us. Yet our motive for forgiving should not be our obligation but the realization of how much we have been forgiven.”
Bridges goes on to share the story of Philemon, a friend of Paul’s. Philemon owned a slave. (That can be so hard for our 21st-century minds to wrap around, and there is no question that slavery is a dehumanizing practice. That being said, first-century slavery was not always as horrendous as the racist and genocidal slavery our American history is more familiar with. The Bible does not condone slavery, but does acknowledge its existence.)
Onesimus had run away from Philemon and likely stolen from him in the process, but then spent time with Paul and became a Christian—like Philemon. Now, Paul wrote, Philemon and Onesimus have more in common than they have different. He asked Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a brother. What’s more, Paul assured him, if he owes you anything, I will pay it.
“These are touching words,” Bridges wrote. “Paul, in prison, says, ‘charge that to my account.’ This is what Jesus says to the Father: ‘Charge Jerry’s sin to my account’—and He paid for it all through His death on the cross.”
In full. In this world, we will sometimes have bones to pick with our fellow Christians—people “for whom Christ died” (see Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11). This doesn’t mean those hurts aren’t valid. But they’re already covered.
It’s as if, instead of meting out punishment and arbitrarily declaring winners and losers, He hands us His card with that pierced hand and says, “Charge it to My account.”
If someone is a Christian, all of their sins are paid for by the blood of Christ. All of them. Sins they already committed. Sins they will commit tomorrow. Sins they committed in secret. Sins they committed against us. There is no question those wrongs hurt—but they are already paid for. By the same God who paid for ours.
How can we argue with that?
For When It’s Hard…
Which is always, by the way. Forgiveness is hard. Sometimes the situations seems complicated and tricky to work through, and sometimes they actually are very complicated.
When we are in those hard situations, it will help us to remember that our God is the One who “sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18) and He knows how much that forgiveness costs us. It cost him, too.
Yes, it is hard, but we still push through it to reach out to our fellow believers. We still forgive.
As we have been forgiven.