Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Saving faith is not merely believing that you are forgiven. Saving faith looks at the horror of sin, and then looks at the holiness of God, and apprehends spiritually that God’s forgiveness is unspeakably glorious, beautiful. We don’t just receive it; we admire it. We are satisfied with our new friendship with such a great, forgiving God.
Faith in God’s forgiveness does not merely mean a persuasion that I am off the hook. It means savoring the truth that a forgiving God is the most precious reality in the universe. Saving faith cherishes being forgiven by God, and from there rises to cherishing the God who forgives — and all that he is for us in Jesus. This experience has a tremendous effect on our becoming forgiving people.
The great act of purchasing our forgiveness is past — the cross of Christ. By this backward look, we learn of the grace in which we will ever stand (Romans 5:2). We learn that we are now, and always will be, loved and accepted. We learn that the living God is a forgiving God.
But the great act of experiencing our forgiveness goes on forever into the future. Our joyful fellowship with the great God who forgives lasts forever. Therefore, freedom for forgiveness, flowing from this all-satisfying fellowship with the forgiving God, lasts as long as we do.
I have learned that it is possible to go on holding a grudge if your faith simply means you have looked back to the cross and concluded that you are off the hook. That’s why I have been forced to go deeper into what true faith is — not just a relief that I’m off the hook, but also a profound satisfaction with all that God is for me in Jesus. This faith looks back not merely to discover that we are off the hook, but also to see and savor the kind of God who offers us a future of endless reconciled tomorrows in fellowship with him. Satisfied fellowship with such a forgiving God is crucial for our being forgiving people.