I must tell you that this is a topic not discussed often and frankly enough within the body of Christ and we want to change that by opening up a dialogue about forgiveness right now.
If ever there were an event that epitomized the old saying, “Easier said than done”, it would be forgiveness. Forgiveness is a difficult task for many reason. For one reason, many of us (even the church-going folks) don’t know the biblical definition of forgiveness. We tend to place conditions on forgiveness such as “I’ll forgive but only if they apologize first”, “I’ll forgive but I’ll never trust them again”, or my personal favorite, “I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget.”
Did you notice something common in all of the above statements? They are all followed by the word but. Let me give you a quick caution on using the word but. It is the great undermining of the most sincerely intended thoughts. If you are in an argument with your spouse and you hear them say “I love you”, that statement alone is as healing as any medicine on the market; however if your spouse answers “I love you but you keep nagging me” the “I love you” gets lost in translation. Whenever you use a statement of positive affirmation, leave the word but out of it. “I’m sorry”,” I love you”, and “Please forgive me” are sentences that stand well on their own! Now getting back to the issue of forgiveness, not only do we have a habit of placing conditions on forgiveness but oftentimes we have a willful determination not to abide by God’s word that we live in unity, peace and forgive one another.
For some of us, forgiveness is simply out of the question. We decide that God is not talking to us when He calls for forgiveness. We decide He is referring to other people who had lesser offenses against them. We justify our refusal to behave the way God instructs based on our pride and resentment. Before taking our conversation to the Word of God, I’d like to address another reason for withholding forgiveness which is our vengeful hearts. Many of us seek or secretly desire revenge which hinders our ability to forgive. We mistakenly make statements like, “They’ll get what’s coming to them”, or worse yet, “Just wait, God will deal with them for me” showing we don’t understand the scripture or the nature of God. God is not our personal hit man and a desire to see harm come to someone else places you outside of His righteousness. Now let’s take a closer look at the behaviors that separate us from God and hinders our peace regarding forgiveness.
What forgiveness is not...
Forgiveness is not something you do for yourself (to relieve guilt, gain approval, or prove a point for examples) and forgiveness is not a gift you give to the other person because you are so wonderful, because they deserve it, or to get them off your back for examples).
What forgiveness is...
Forgiveness is a mandate from God, taught by Jesus Christ, and a gift of mercy from God that can bring us closer to God although we are sinners. Jesus Christ is a gift from God. God wanted mankind to be reconciled with their Creator and offered us the ultimate gift in Jesus Christ. Consider what Peter says in Acts 2:38.
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
We are to forgive one another because God first forgave us. When we put into perspective at what cost our sins are forgiven, we are immediately drawn to an image of our Savior taking the cross at Calvary. The blood of Jesus was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. With this in mind, how can we be unforgiving?
Removing the conditions from forgiveness
For many of us, when we consider the act of forgiving it is conditional. It is tied to a set of self-imposed rules that literally disregard the bible. A clear example of how Christ views forgiveness can be seen in Luke 17:3-4. Notice Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples in this powerful scripture. (Bolded and italicized to show emphasis)
“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (NIV)
Forgiveness is not optional it’s a mandate. Notice Jesus makes an imperative statement when he says you must forgive them. This means forgiveness is not contingent on whether or not we believe the offender deserves it, forgiveness does not discriminate and forgiveness is not limited to a one time deal. Forgiveness requires a strength and quality of character that Christ expects of us and equips us with to God’s glory.
Do not refuse to forgive...
Did you know that when we refuse to forgive we are doing deliberate harm to ourselves? By holding on to grudges, harboring resentments and reliving negative experiences over and over again, not only are we dishonoring God but we are forfeiting God’s mercy and forgiveness towards us. The Bible clearly states that we are to forgive so that we may be forgiven. Whenever you find it difficult to forgive, think about these scriptures to help you release your own stubborn pride.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1John 1:9-10 NIV)
Confess your desire for revenge
When someone hurts you it seems only natural to want them to hurt in return. When I think about the way I have used my words to literally stab someone in the hearts in retaliation of my hurt feelings, I am convicted, ashamed and embarrassed. The truth is, it is unnatural to seek revenge or desire revenge and it is ungodly to place God in the position of your personal henchman. On this the Bible is clear, vengeance belongs to God and God alone. We are not only called to love, but to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. God would never request of us that which we could not do. This is why we can hold with certainty the Word of God that promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. We can love, we can forgive and honor God with our hearts. Romans 12:9-19 paints a portrait of God’s expectations for us to love and forgive even in the face of our adversaries. Let’s take a closer look at this scripture: (Bolded and italicized to show emphasis)
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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.
To hope for, seek or to request vengence of God is essentially playing God. Our Father in Heaven is sovereign. He knows when we are hurt, he knows when we have been wronged and he has provided us with everything we need, including the blood of Jesus to show love and forgive despite it all.
Family, please know that this article does not come by way of persecution but as a caution and in support. Together we can overcome our hardened hearts and walk in peace through forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean putting yourself in harm’s way or continuing to engage with people who will regularly and persistently hurt you. Forgive is repenting to God first for allowing the enemy to corrupt our hearts causing us separation and then following the instructions of Christ to love and forgive. If we can get into a place of confession and go before God with all of the anger, spite, grudges, pain, and offense we hold in our hearts, we can ask in prayer for God to release it. I want God’s mercy. I want God’s forgiveness and love. I also want these things for you. So do not hesitate to write us here at Let’s Talk. Share in your testimony or request prayer. Let’s come together in the body of Christ and defeat Satan’s attempts on our lives.