Not everyone knows the gospel. Even fewer actually live the gospel.
The gospel, the good news, is that we who rebelled against God–and that was every one of us–can be reconciled to God through Christ. We who disobeyed God’s law can be forgiven in Christ who bore our punishment on the cross. We who stand before Him in blatant guilt of unrighteousness, incapable of providing the righteousness He requires, can be declared righteous in Christ who imputes His own righteousness into our account. We who are dead can have life, eternal life, God-life, in Christ, by confessing our sins and trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. That’s the gospel.
A certain kind of life, a gospel life, a life of gospel fruit necessarily grows from this faith. We who have been forgiven for sinning much must now also forgive those who have sinned against us little by comparison. Jesus told a parable to this end (Matthew 18:23-34), and the merciful master said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
We gospel-knowers should take heed lest that’s all we are. We are to forgive “just as” Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) and this is an unattainable standard apart from the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Sin in us makes any sin against us seem worse than any sin by us against God. We are usually unwilling to forgive when our perspective is so perverted.
But we must forgive like Christ if we’ve been forgiven by Christ. This is gospel life. By our slowness to enact the gospel we commit sin that makes us greater debtors to the gospel ourselves. Bitterness and grudge-holding and stand-offishness do not belong in a gospel life. We must confess our sins of not forgiving others their sin. We must seek the forgiveness of the gospel for not giving the forgiveness of the gospel.