Useful Bible Studies > Colossians Commentary > chapter 3

To forbear and to forgive

Colossians 3:13

We often say that Christians have a duty to forgive other people. Paul separates that into two duties here, to forbear and to forgive.

So, first, let us explain the word ‘forbear’. When someone does or says something wrong against us, we urgently desire to put the matter right. Often, our reaction is anger against that person.

This kind of anger is for a proper reason. However, it can very easily lead us into the wrong behaviour that Paul described in verse 8. It does not belong to the right attitudes in verse 12. So, instead, the Christian should choose to forbear in that situation, in other words, to be patient. He waits to see what God will bring about in the situation.

Perhaps the guilty person will confess his wrong deed and decide to turn from it. Then, even as God forgave the Christian’s evil deeds, so that Christian has the opportunity to forgive the other person. Even if this happens often, the Christian should still forgive (Matthew 18:21-22).

Paul’s word for ‘forgive’ here really means to show kindness. It is like the kindness when a lender cancels a person’s debt (Luke 7:41-42). The person who forbears has only chosen to delay his anger; the person who forgives, cancels his anger completely. Instead of anger against the guilty person, he will now show only love and kindness to that person.

By the decision to forgive, the Christian is not pretending that a person’s wrong behaviour does not matter. It matters to God, and it may still matter very much to other people too. Rather that Christian declares that he personally will not claim his rights in this matter. The other person may have hurt or upset him – but he no longer desires to hurt or to upset that other person.

Next part: The love that Christians must show (Colossians 3:14)


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© 2019, Keith Simons.