The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.
Jesus understood the brokenness of the human condition. No one knows the human heart like him. He forgave tax collectors and prostitutes, and forgave his best friend Peter, for betraying him. On the cross, he even forgave the people who killed him. He knows that humans—all humans—are weak.
For us, though, it usually doesn’t help to know that those who have hurt us are weak. All we know is that we were injured and we can’t seem to get over it. Jesus’ command in theLord’s Prayerseems too hard to obey:“and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”; (Mark 6:12, NIV)
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen
When we have been hurt, our instinct is to hurt back. We want to make the other person pay for what they did. But exacting revenge steps over the line into God’s territory, as Paul warned,
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NIV)
If we cannot take revenge, then we must forgive. God commands it. But how? How can we let it go when we have been unjustly hurt, betrayed ?
The answer lies in understanding the Trinity’s role in forgiveness. Christ’s role was to die for our sins. God the Father’s role was to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and forgive us. Today, the Holy Spirit’s role is to enable us to do those things in the Christian life we cannot do on our own, namely forgive others because God has forgiven us.
Refusing to forgive leaves an open wound in our soul that festers into bitterness, resentment, and depression. For our own good, and the good of the person who hurt us, we simply must forgive. Just as we trust God for our salvation, we have to trust him to make things right when we forgive. He will heal our wound so we can move on.
Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.
In his book, Landmines in the Path of the Believer, Charles Stanley says:
We are to forgive so that we may enjoy God’s goodness without feeling the weight of anger burning deep within our hearts. Forgiveness does not mean we recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.
Rolling our burdens onto the Lord—that’s the secret of the Christian life, and the secret of how to forgive. Trusting God. Depending on him instead of ourselves. It’s a hard thing but not a complicated thing. It’s the only way we can truly forgive.
We will know the work of forgiveness is complete when we experience the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.
Most times, however, forgiveness is a slow process.
Then 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. (NIV)
This answer by Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is not easy for us. It’s not a one-time choice and then we automatically live in a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness may require a lifetime of forgiving, but it is important to the Lord. We must continue forgiving until the matter is settled in our heart.
What if the person we need to forgive is not a believer?
I have found that prayer is one of the best ways to break down the wall of unforgiven in my heart. When I begin to pray for the person who has wronged me, God gives me new eyes to see and a new heart to care for that person. As I pray, I start to see that person as God sees them, and I realize that he or she is precious to the Lord. I also see myself in a new light, just as guilty of sin and failure as the other person. I too am in need of forgiveness. If God did not withhold his forgiveness from me, why should I withhold my forgiveness from another?
Is it okay to feel anger and want justice for the person we need to forgive?
This question presents another reason to pray for the person we need to forgive. We can pray for God to deal with the injustices, for God to judge the person’s life, and then we can leave that prayer at the altar. We no longer have to carry the anger. Although it is normal for us to feel anger toward sin and injustice, it is not our job to judge the other person in their sin.
Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (NIV)
Why must we forgive?
The best reason to forgive is because Jesus commanded us to forgive. We learn from Scripture, if we don’t forgive, neither will we be forgiven:
Matthew 6:14-16 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. (NIV)
We also forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered:
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.(NIV)
In summary and in closing, we forgive out of obedience to the Lord. It is a choice, a decision we make. However, as we do this “forgiving,” we discover the command is in place for our own good, and we receive the reward of our forgiveness—freedom.
We must continue to forgive (our job), by faith, until the work of forgiveness (the Lord’s job), is done in our hearts.
Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT)
The Bible instructs us to forgive as the Lord forgave us:
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.(NIV)
Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
I have had a very hard time with this and struggle with this everyday. How do I forgive someone/people who has grievously betrayed me and continues to do the same things with no remorse. We create our own demons when we fail to live a life were we sin and seek forgiveness when we know we will do the same sin again and again. I think people who ask for forgiveness if they are truly remorseful they will seek to change the bad behavior and not just continue on with it. They would seek to right the wrong committed to the person. I believe if you ask for forgiveness just alleviate your guilt you are truly not sorry for what you have done and are still wrong and the sin still lingers. Pray in your own way about those who have wronged you ask that they may be enlightened of their wrong ways and seek to make them right and ask for peace in your own heart and forgive those who trespass against you.
I welcome your comments
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Talk to you soon
Please check out my new series on Amazon about love, sin, betrayal ,and the human condition coming spring 2015