Forgiveness is hard. We all face hurts that are real and raw and hard to get over. In Luke 17:1, Jesus told his disciples, “Offenses will certainly come.” You cannot live life without being offended. People are going to hurt you and disappoint you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. What do you do when this happens?
The Mandate of Forgiveness – 3 Scriptures
Jesus said in Luke 17:3-5 that we are to forgive those who sin against us. He said, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The disciples responded, “Increase our faith.” In Matthew 18 when Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness, Jesus said to forgive “not seven but seventy times even.” In Mark 11:25 Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.” In Ephesians 4:30-32, Paul tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. He tells us to rid ourselves from bitterness, wrath, and slander, and instead to be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another as God forgave us. Forgiveness is a choice to release a person from a wrong done against you. It is not easy, but it is not optional for the Christian! It does not have to be emotional or end in reconciliation, but it will certainly benefit you. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself! Holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It is not punishing them. It is destroying you. I am not minimizing your hurt or pain. I am saying that you can I can choose to forgive. We can choose to stop replaying the offense in our minds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can forgive and we can ask others to forgive us. The mandate in scripture is clear. Now, how do you forgive?
The Models of Forgiveness – 3 Stories
First, you forgive others. Joseph gives us a great example of this. His brothers sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused, and ended up in prison. When his brothers came to him later, instead of getting even, he forgave. He said to them, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph didn’t deny what his brothers did was evil. He did not say, “Well, they meant well.” No, they meant evil! But God meant good. Life is too short and relationships are too precious to hold a grudge. The friends we keep the longest are the friends we keep forgiving. God is the only one who can take evil and turn it for good! Not only are we to forgive others, but you must forgive yourself. Paul said of himself, “I am the worst of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). In Philippians 3 he recalls that he was aPharisee and with zeal he persecuted the church. He separated families and loved ones. But a few verses later he said, “But one thing I do: Forget those things which are behind and reach forward to what is ahead” (v.13). We all have regrets! Forgiving others is giving God’s grace to them. Forgiving yourself is receiving God’s grace yourself. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Finally, we need to forgive God. Let me be clear. God is perfect, holy, just, and never makes a mistake! But, sometimes we feel like God has let us down, betrayed us, or like He didn’t come through for us. If you are mad at God, you might as well tell Him because He already knows it! The Psalmist said in Psalm 142, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord… I pour out my complaint before him.” You can pour out your complaint to God. If God does not explain the “why” behind His actions, it’s OK. Even if He did, it would not take away the pain. Habakkuk the prophet struggled with several “why” questions. Maybe you are struggling with why or what if. In that case, you choose to say like Habakkuk did, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!” (Hab. 3:17-18).
The Movement of Forgiveness – 3 Steps
Here are three practical steps to put forgiveness into practice. First, pray for them. The Lord’s prayer is to be prayed every day. Remember this line: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt. 6:12). We have to choose to forgive every day. Jesus said in Luke 6:27, “Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” It is impossible to hate someone when you pray for them. Second, bless them. Speak well of them and do not speak evil. Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Refuse to talk negatively about them, but to instead speak blessing and life. Finally, do good to them. Look up Romans 12:17-21. Paul says to feed your enemy when he’s hungry and give him something to drink when he’s thirsty. He closes saying, “Conquer evil with good.”
Let God fight your battles. Do you want revival or revenge? Do you want victory or vengeance? You can’t be who God wants you to be and hold on to unforgiveness. Let God change you. Ask the Holy Spirit for supernatural help and healing. Mother Teresa said, “Forgiveness is really between you and your God. It was never really between you and them anyway.” Remember, you will never have to forgive someone more than Jesus had to forgive you.
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