Forgiveness and Gospel Love


Article by Kelly Tarr

69 times ago, it was easy to forgive the person who hurt me. But on the eve of the 70th time of choosing to walk in a forgiving manner, I’m feeling a bit weary. Have you ever felt this way? I sure have. For years, I’ve walked in a relationship where there is a pattern of deeply hurtful behavior manifested toward me. When the days turned into months, and then the months turned into a year, I knew I needed help to continue with a heart of forgiveness. I want to truly love and forgive as the Lord does, but I quickly learned that I can’t just pull up my boot straps and will myself to do it. In this place of seeking the Lord for help, He has taught me over the years that I must first understand how He loves me.

The Lord is after our hearts, and therefore, how we respond to a wrong done to us is of utmost importance to Him. He is not only desirous of a heart free of offense, but of displaying His love and glory in our hearts as we forgive an offense done to us.

What Is Forgiveness, Anyway?

To say that forgiveness is simply forgetting a wrong done to me is inaccurate, Biblically speaking. God, who is omniscient, knows my sin and weakness. But He loves me through the lens of Christ, Who is my righteousness. Not only this, but He sees who I am not yet, and loves me as if I’m already there! Romans 5:8 demonstrates this, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God loved me when I had not yet recognized my offensive, hateful behavior. This is what He calls me to, and this is what I cannot do on my own.

To Give, I Must First Receive

My love for other people is a direct reflection of my understanding of the Lord’s love for me. When I understand how the Lord thinks and feels about me, and I respond to Him with love, then it will overflow into love for others. But until this happens, I cannot truly love. His love must be in my heart for it to come out of my heart.

The reality is that I will never learn to love another person if I don’t first learn how to love the Lord. And, learning to love Him means that I first need to learn how to receive love from Him. When I am loved, I learn how to love. It is in His Word that I learn of His heart of love toward me, one terribly weak and wrought with sin. Something happens in my heart when I sit before the Lord and allow Him to reveal places in my heart that fall so short of His standard. I encounter the Living God who loves me despite and through this, and I am undone. This is the only proper response. When I am broken before the Lord over my sin, He delights to minister to my heart, even while calling me again to righteousness.

As I begin to understand the depth of my need for Him, I can begin to receive His love for me. As the Holy Spirit ministers His love to me, my response is to love Him. There is a beautiful exchange happening that causes His love in my heart to overflow. As I walk in this ever-growing love relationship, my capacity to love others increases. I have the ability to respond without offense when wronged, because I understand my own desperate condition and have experienced unconditional love while still in it.

This is 1 John 4 happening in my heart! I can only give what I have first received.

God’s Glory Displayed Through Gospel Love

In this place of loving out of an overflow, we participate with God in displaying His love to the world. In 1 John 4:8, we are told that God abides in us and His love is perfected in us if we love. What greater demonstration of God’s glorious love is there than this?!

All have sinned against God, and are in need of forgiveness. If we know Christ, we have been forgiven. The kindness and love of God led us to repentance and gave us life in Him. We received His love. Not only this, but He delights in us, despite the sin that is still being worked out of us. Therefore, we are still receiving His love. Since my understanding and receiving is ongoing, it enables me to love and forgive others seventy times seven, and it becomes a joy to do so.

This is gospel love, and we get to participate!

More about Kelly:


Kelly is a wife of nearly 9 years, and a busy mom to three young children. She is a transplanted Yankee living in the South on 40 acres, has a love for running, and is dangerous with a good book…and an egg beater. Visit her at




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