The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. –Genesis 3:21

Christians ought to be better at extending grace than non-Christians, because forgiven people understand the need for intervention. One of the greatest barriers that keeps us from forgiving other people is the mistaken belief that before you can forgive somebody, the offender has to make the first move. We think the wrongdoer has to show repentance and remorse and offer restitution before we can forgive. The problem is, if you keep waiting for your offender to do that, then you may go a lifetime without ever forgiving him or her. Many times it is the offended person who has to make the first step if a relationship is going to be reconciled.

People often say to me, “If we are to forgive as God forgives us, then doesn’t God demand we show repentance before we can receive forgiveness?” Absolutely. But there is a difference between receiving forgiveness and granting forgiveness. Yes, we have to do some things to receive God’s forgiveness. We have to repent, but that doesn’t keep God from making the first move. In fact, in our salvation it was God who made the first step toward reconciliation.

A great illustration of that is seen in the first case of forgiveness recorded in the Bible, found in Genesis 3. God had placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He told them that they could eat any of the fruit they wanted except one. What did Adam and Eve do? They made a beeline toward that one prohibited tree. What happened as a result of their sin? Genesis 3:8-9 says, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Adam and Eve had lost their way. They were running from God, but God started walking toward them. After explaining the temporal consequences of their sin, God took the initiative in providing a covering for their sin. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (v. 21).

Even though Adam and Eve had to do something to receive God’s forgiveness, God intervened and took the first step toward reconciliation. And He did the same thing with you and with me: God took the first step in saving us. Romans 5:6 says, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” And 1 John 4:10 tells us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Repentance is important to receive forgiveness, but not to grant forgiveness. If you make your forgiveness of someone dependent on what the other person does, then you are going to become his or her prisoner for life. Forgiveness is something we take the first step toward. It is something that we grant instead of waiting for the actions of the person who has wronged us. Sometimes forgiven people have to take the first step toward reconciliation.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Basis for All Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.