“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:13 ESV)
Every one of us has been hurt deeply by someone else.
It may be a hurt that came from some violent or careless act.
It may stem from something that we perceive that somebody should have done but actually didn’t.
It may be something that took place over many years. It may be something that happened in a moment.
As I speak these words there may be a situation or person that immediately pops into your mind and begins to make your stomach churn; perhaps to the extent of making you physically ill.
In fact, this issue may remind you of a pain that distracts you from the clear teaching of God’s Word.
The command to forgive is most difficult because sometimes we don’t want to forgive. We want to strike back. We want justice. We want the other person to know the pain they inflicted. And if we can’t have justice we may find ourselves vowing to never have a relationship with that person again. We avoid them and ignore them. It is not surprising then that when we talk about forgiveness we are more interested in finding loopholes than we are in obeying.
The call to forgiveness:
Let’s begin with the facts: the Bible tells us that we are to forgive.
Matthew 6:14,15 “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.
In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This is followed by the parable of the ungrateful servant “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
In Mark 11:25 we see “and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37 says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Luke 17:3, 4 says “so watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Ephesians 4:32 declares “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.
Why does God place an emphasis on resolving an issue of forgiveness?
First of all forgiveness truly reflects God’s character. When we forgive then we are we reflecting the Father’s love. The standard is this: forgive “as” He has forgiven you. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to extend to others what God has extended to us.
However you may say, “If we forgive aren’t we just letting someone get away with a wrong?” We feel if we “simply forgive” then we will be allowing someone to take advantage of us. Shouldn’t we make people aware of the wrong they have done?
“It is his glory to pass over a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11). It is more honorable to bury an injury than to revenge it. Anger implies weakness and a noble spirit can overlook a petty offense.
Suppose the wrong is great “and they hurt you very deeply”. To not forgive is a greater wrong. In injuring you they offended you, but in not forgiving him you actually offend against God.
In scripture we have “the Lord’s prayer” as an example.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV
One of the best ways of showing someone the wrong they have done is to contrast their actions with grace.
Then we see that forgiveness releases us. This is far better than harboring bitterness and resentment.
An unforgiving heart will bind the Holy Spirit’s ability to move in the heart. It becomes a barrier to effective and fruitful ministry. An unwillingness to forgive disrupts our fellowship with God. It steals from us the joy of knowing His forgiveness in our lives. Are you having trouble praying with power? Could it be that there is someone you need to forgive?
Forgiveness yields power in the life of the one forgiven. Simply stated, God’s grace had a transforming effect in your life and your extension of that grace to others has power to transform them. In these painful situations we must keep in mind that every lost person matters to God. Paul endured all kinds of persecution and pain in order to share Christ. Jesus endured the pain and shame of the cross in order to redeem you. When we endure and forgive rather than strike back and resent, we open the doorway of grace to someone else.
Principles of forgiveness:
True Forgiveness is an act of grace empowered by God.
Forgiveness is not easy and we want to get even or we want to get ahead!
To forgive someone requires the work of God in your life.
This is not a natural act . . . it is a supernatural one!
What does it mean to forgive a person?
When have we truly forgiven?
When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do the offender mischief, but wish well to them and pray for and seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. This is scriptural forgiveness.
Forgiveness has taken place when we can honestly seek the best for the other person. It is when we make an effort to restore a relationship rather than avoid the relationship. Forgiveness has taken place when past actions no longer hold a present bearing. Forgiveness is real when hate is replaced by love.
True Forgiveness takes time is seldom a one-time affair. We have to consciously seek to forgive again and again. One moment we may feel we have let the matter go and in the next something stimulates a painful memory that must be dealt with again. The roots of bitterness go deep. The deeper the hurt is, then more time may be needed for the difficult work of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a decision of the mind and action that the heart must be reaffirm over and over.
True Forgiveness must be Realistic.
We must understand that the act of forgiveness may not heal the relationship with the person who hurt us. The person we forgive may not even see anything they need to be forgiven of. It may seem that they are indifferent to the pain they have inflicted. Forgiveness may not affect the other person at all. But we must extend forgiveness anyway as an act of trust toward God. We must forgive because we choose to do what is right, not because of the response we hope to get from the other.
We also need to realize that we cannot wait for someone else to make the first move. We feel the person who offended should be the one to make the first move. However, the Lord gives us no such rule. The rule the Lord gives us is simply this: “forgive as I have forgiven you”. God made the first move toward us in his work of redemption.
True Forgiveness involves Forgetting:
Scripture tells us that God will “remember our sins no longer.”
So in a sense in which we must forget.
Perhaps the wound is old or perhaps the wound is fresh and you are hurt.
Perhaps part of you feels broken, and the other part is bitter.
Part of you wants to cry, and part of you wants to fight.
The tears you cry come from your heart, and inside there is a fire burning in your heart. It’s the fire of anger and it’s blazing and it’s consuming.
Now you are left with a decision. “Do I put the fire out or heat it up? Do I get over it or get even? Do I release it or resent it? Do I let my hurts heal, or do I let hurt turn into hate?”
Resentment is the deliberate decision to coddle the offense until it becomes a black, furry, growling grudge.
Unfaithfulness is wrong. Revenge is bad. But the worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that is left.
Where do you need to extend forgiveness today?
Is it not the time to extend grace and mercy and that way peace can be sought and secured?