Forgiveness is a staple of the Christian faith. We know that Christ died so we can receive forgiveness, and we know we’re called to forgive others. But sometimes we might not fully grasp the necessity and power of true forgiveness due to a lack of knowledge, or feelings of bitterness we haven’t dealt with. Here are a few truths to remember about forgiving.
God Forgave Our Sins…Even the Really Bad Ones
I would hold such grudges, before knowing God. Especially if I felt myself or others had been unfairly treated. But when I got saved, everything changed, including my ability to let offenses go, and forgive more easily. When we realize the magnitude of a perfect God knowing every one of our ugly, selfish, even horrible acts and thoughts, and still choosing to love and forgive us, it’s so much easier to show mercy and forgiveness towards others. Because when you know God, your perspective, and the very way you view life changes. Every problem, issue, annoyance and offense seems to hold little weight in the light of eternity. It’s hard carrying a grudge when you’re communicating daily with the God who gave his son for you. “Thanks for the eternal life and freedom, Lord, but I just can’t forgive my sister for refusing to watch my kids.” It just doesn’t work. So if April, my old college roommate reads this, I forgive you for ruining half my wardrobe without asking…and I’m sorry for hiding your car keys that time. Okay both times.
We Might as Well Forgive, Because the Offenses Will Never Stop
The fact that every person around us who doesn’t know the Lord is lost, hurting and depraved pretty much guarantees there will be pain and offenses in this life. How can we not expect to be hurt or let down by the people in our lives-both strangers and loved ones- who don’t know Him? Whether you believe we’re living in the end times or not, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:2 NIV) says people in those days will be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boatful, proud, abusive…without love, unforgiving, slanderous, etc.” If this is true, it’s practically inevitable we’ll be hurt, attacked, and offended by others before this life is over. Whether it’s letting go of a co-worker insulting you, or something deeper, like a relationship wound, we’re told to forgive, and let God deal with the offenders. Forgiving doesn’t’ mean making light of a wrongdoing, de-valuing the hurt and pain we feel, or enabling the person who did wrong. But we’re called to give our offenses over to the Lord, completely, harboring no ill-will towards our offenders. And Lord knows we’ve all made dumb mistakes and decisions offending others, even during our Christian walk. So. Much. Forgiveness.
Vengeance is His
Admittedly, some circumstances are more diffiultr to forgive than others. Instances of child abuse or infidelity can be some of the most difficult hurts to truly forgive. No matter the pain or heartache we’re struggling with, I think it’s important to remember no one cares more, or is more upset about our pain than the Lord. If he loves us more than we even love our own children, than he’s even more offended and upset by wrong doing against us. We should pray our offenders accept forgiveness, but if not, the Lord will deal with them in all his sovereignty someday. Romans 12:9 tells us “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. There’s no pain or suffering we can’t forgive, but we have to rely on God’s power, not our own, and sincerely ask for his help. And when we genuinely forgive those who’ve egregiously hurt us, it draws us closer to God in a profoundly deep way. It’s only when we align our thoughts and heart with God’s will for forgiveness, can His miraculous healing begin.
We Have to Forgive Ourselves
If God, who is sinless and without flaw, says we’re forgiven, we need to believe it. I think many of us are held back in our faith journeys, ministries, and even fail to fulfill our true destinies because we don’t really forgive ourselves for who we’ve been, or the things we’ve done in the past. The Bible says God holds not record of wrongs, yet how many times to those accusing thoughts pop into our minds reminding us of our failures and mistakes, in order to rob us of our joy and freedom. There is nothing we could do to hinder God’s forgiveness, if we repent. God used Paul, a Christian-killing hypocrite, to write most of the New Testament. Kind David had murder and adultery in his list of sins, but was eventually called a “man after God’s own heart.” What’s important is Paul and David didn’t look back, once forgiven. Instead of schlepping through life never feeling adequate or worthy for their callings, they used the knowledge of who they were, and what God had forgiven them for, to embolden their messages and live in gratefulness. Now is the time to forgive yourself…for everything, and be joyful God sees you as new.
Forgiveness Leads to Freedom
Even if we forgive in sheer obedience to the Lord, we’ll experience amazing power and freedom when we do. Bitterness is mental prison. Just this summer, I knew I hadn’t totally let go of an offense by a co-worker. I wasn’t resentful per say, but I sure didn’t go out of my way to chat, or show kindness like I used to. I became less of a “light” at work, and it frankly squelched my spirit. There is so much weight, stress and exhaustion involved when you hold on to unforgiveness. Grudges weigh us down, deplete our energy, and it gives the person or circumstances control that shouldn’t exist in our lives. Forgiveness says to the offender,” I’m beyond your reach.” After becoming better at forgiving we actually learn to pity and have compassion for who offend us. And when you really attain Christlikeness you’ll pray for them. Can’t say I’m quite there most times, but when I start praying for the loons that cut me off in traffic, then I’ll know I’m there. Forgive whatever’s holding you back. Hold a ceremony if you need to. Give it to God, and then never look back. If you still haven’t made peace with a person, or circumstance, the only option is to forgive. Jesus forgave the very men nailing him to the cross, and I think there’s a reason that detail remained in God’s Word. He knows the damage unforgiveness can bring, and he wants the world to see his power and mercy when we do let go, and forgive.