The Bible is crystal clear in calling us to forgive: Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) But isn't true, it is easier to talk about forgiveness than it is to do it? And while we know that however painful it might be to extend forgiveness to one who has wounded us deeply, it is infinitely better than refusing to forgive. To harbour and unforgiving spirit, which inhibits the flow of God's grace and power in our lives, is a high price to pay and so very often, it is the one who refuses to forgive who is most miserable.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
The Bible speaks often of the necessity to forgive but perhaps the greatest reason to do so is the humble recognition that God has forgiven us. The Apostle Paul writes: When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) Our salvation is rooted in the forgiveness God extends to us through Christ Jesus. If God did not forgive us, we would have to carry our sins forever; a burden that in and of ourselves could never be removed. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness. (Psalm 130:3-4)
The truth of Scripture, the remarkable words of Jesus on the cross, Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34), should be sufficient to stir our hearts to obedience in this regard. Jesus uttered these simple yet powerful words, and in those words…your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12) When we grasp the enormity of God's forgiving grace in our lives, how can we not also extend that grace to those who have wronged us.
My friends at Valley, is there someone in your life, someone who has wronged you, who has hurt you deeply? God's demand of us is simple and straight-forward, Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) Remember, forgiveness is choice, a choice to extend grace, to let go, to release, to pardon--forgiveness is always a choice. It’s a choice about how you respond to one who has wronged or offended you. And, the Bible doesn’t say, 'forgive them if you feel like it'. If you have been wounded, you will probably not “feel” like forgiving. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a choice, a decision you make in your heart; it is a choice to release others from their offenses against you. 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs. Forgiveness means letting go of the hurt, the anger and the desire for revenge. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we erase from our minds the wrong that was done, forgiveness means we choose not to remember, not to dwell on it.
Sometimes people say, 'He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven'. Of course, he doesn’t, no one “deserves” forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t earned or merited, it is an offer of grace to the undeserving. Start by forgiving that person in your own heart; allow God's Spirit to lead you to an authentic place of being able to let go and then as you discern the Spirit's leading, wisely choose whether or not you need to approach that person. Sometimes we wonder about saying the words, 'I forgive you', is that something we are required to do?
I would say the answer is, not necessarily. If the person asks for forgiveness and your heart is to forgive, then certainly it’s appropriate to say, 'I forgive you'. But what happens when you go to that person and they say, 'I didn't do anything that needs to be forgiven'? Often that leads to more conflict or greater tension. Here's what I'm learning, I don't need their agreement that they have wronged me, I don't need their permission to extend forgiveness, I can simply choose to forgive and move on and know a measure of peace on my end of the equation. In all of this it takes great discernment, but I believe the Holy Spirit will lead us in the right course of action.
May God give to us the heart of Jesus, who has forgiven us and grant us the courage to forgive those who have wronged us. And may we as the church be an oasis of forgiveness in a very unforgiving world.