Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 12, 2014

The Why and How of Forgiveness

The Why and How of Forgiveness

 

Have you ever struggled with being able to forgive someone who has hurt or wronged you? Perhaps it was something said or done deliberately to hurt or annoy you. At other times, the offending party may have been totally unaware that their words or actions caused you pain. Either way, have you ever forgiven someone for an offense just to have to deal with it again and again as you continue to recall the hurt? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to let go of it.

 

Through the years, I have to admit I’ve been there from time to time. But no matter how justified I felt to not forgive someone who had wronged me, I knew in my heart it wasn’t right. The Bible clearly teaches us to forgive. Paul taught the Ephesians: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He taught the Colossians: “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13). The writer of Proverbs stated: He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9). And even Jesus, Himself, proclaimed: And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). We are taught to forgive regardless of how someone has trespassed against us.

 

Why? Why is it so important to forgive? I’m sure there are many Biblical scholars who could answer this question far better than I can, but this is what I’ve discovered as I’ve grappled with the issue of forgiving others.

 

  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I am saved by grace alone. My salvation does not depend on whether or not I choose to forgive someone who has wronged me, but Jesus commanded us to forgive others. When I fail to forgive others, I sin. When I fail to confess this sin to my Heavenly Father, my relationship with Him is broken. As we read in 1 John 1:9-10: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Only as we agree with God about our sin and confess our sin to Him, can we be cleansed, forgiven, and restored.
  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with others. I’ve discovered that when I fail to forgive, I cannot love others as Jesus commands. Jesus taught: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). My Father forgave me of all my sin – not because I deserved it, but because He loved me. He calls me to do the same. Just as Christ’s merciful, unconditional love makes a difference in our lives, our love can make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Forgiveness affects me. My ability to forgive others reflects where I place my trust. Do I trust in myself? When I keep records of wrongs and rights and how I can repay, I’m trusting myself to right all wrongs. On the other hand, when I can release all the wrongs others have committed against me to my Heavenly Father, I trust Him to work things out. And when we seek Him and follow Him, we can know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Releasing all my hurts to my Heavenly Father frees me to move forward instead of constantly living life in rewind. Instead of allowing the actions of others, over which I have no control, to occupy my mind and thoughts, forgiveness helps me to put these things behind me, let them go, and move on to the next step God has planned for me.

 

But how do we do it? How do we forgive when we really don’t feel like forgiving? How do we forgive when terrible wrongs have been perpetrated against ourselves or others? While it may not always be easy, forgiveness is really not an option for the believer. Perhaps the following can help when extending forgiveness is hard.

 

  • Recognize that it is God’s place to judge, not ours.

“ Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

 

  • Surrender the person and the situation to God.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

 

  • Pray for the offender.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

 

  • Trust God with the outcome.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

We are probably never more like Christ than when we can extend love and forgiveness to those who have hurt or wronged us. Likewise, when we commit to pray for someone who has hurt us, we may discover that our thoughts and attitudes change toward that person as Christ works in us to produce a love like His. What a difference forgiveness can make in all our lives – as we are forgiven and as we forgive!

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