Christian Counseling: Love and Forgiveness

Exploring the Connections Between Loving and Forgiving

jesus christ praying with halo
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

(Galatians 5:14, NIV)

At the very heart of Christianity and Jesus' ministry was a simple precept -- that love for ourselves and each other is all we need to fully realize ourselves as children of God. Time and again, the Bible reinforces this simple fact, and yet even the best of us feel challenged when trying to follow this one basic rule. How are we to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?

Through compassion, forgiveness, assuming responsibility, and taking steps toward leadership, perhaps we've begun to love ourselves in a deeper, more complete way. God's love is all encompassing; it is unending and perfect to our shortcomings. By accepting ourselves as we are, with strengths and weaknesses, intelligences and naiveties, by leaving the judging of our character to the Almighty, we come closer to loving ourselves wholly and completely.

If we love ourselves, we value our own hearts and mind for what they are. Why is it so hard for us to do the same for other people?

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

(Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)

In the practical sense, forgiveness is the attitude we must take toward our brothers and sisters if we are to love them fully and completely. Like us, they think and feel. Like us, they are human and flawed. Like us, they make mistakes. We are all poor sinners on this earth together. Forgiveness is the soil in which love grows.

Stand Against Pride
In many cases, we're stopped from forgiving others by our own pride. Think about the people in your life that you have yet to forgive, and think about why you've not taken that step. How have they wronged you? Is your pride involved? It is not enough to love only those who love you, who add to your own sense of glory and accomplishment. You must also love those who do not love you.
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

(Luke 6:27, NIV)

This is the only way love can grow and spread, and it is its greatest strength. Love begets love, even where none existed before. Forgive your friends; forgive your enemies. Set down the pride and self-glory that keeps you apart from your fellow men.

The Love of Jesus Christ
The sort of complete forgiveness and love summed up in the phrase "love your neighbor as yourself" is almost impossibly difficult to achieve for even the best of men. We are not perfect -- this much is clear.

However, accepting Jesus Christ, the embodiment of these ideals, into our hearts and minds helps us to lead lives that are more forgiving and loving. Christ gave freely of himself to those who asked, fulfilling them with an unending supply of forgiveness and love.

Written by: Bob Robertson