Forgiveness is letting GO off any offenses that has been committed against us, whether it has been done a year ago, a month ago, yesterday, or even one minute ago. The greatest form of forgiveness that mankind can ever know is when God forgave our sins through His Son. He has every right to pass down His judgment, but God chose to redeem us.
Jesus definitely understands how hard it is to forgive. If one would have known what it’s like to hurt, it’s Jesus. He was wrongly accused, betrayed, forsaken, denied and mocked, crucified on the cross for our sins when He Himself is sinless, and yet at His point of death, He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In order to live a victorious life, we need to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is never easy, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
WHAT FORGIVENESS IS AND IS NOT
- Forgiveness is a decision, not an emotion. When you forgive, you’re actually making a decision to let go the offenses that has been committed against you, but it does not mean that your hurt will vanish immediately. In other words, it does not mean that you have not forgiven if you’re still hurting over a situation.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is choosing not to let offenses affect you. Never is it mentioned in the Bible, ‘forgive and forget’. In Philippians 3:13 & 14, Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” What he meant by ‘forgetting’ is not trying to act as if the hurt was never there, or something has never happened, but rather, it is a choice to dump those offenses in the sea of forgetfulness. When God forgives us, it does not mean that he forgets what we did, but He simply CHOOSE not to remember it. It is when we choose to allow those memories to bring out something good in the future, and not to revise what has been done against us.
- Forgiveness is not masking hurt. When you forgive, it does not mean that you should act as if you are not hurting. It is OK to forgive while you are still hurting, In fact, hurt is something that God has allowed us to feel when someone sins against us. When we sinned against God, it does not mean that God smiles at us as if our sins do not hurt Him. The fact is, we cannot forgive if we do not allow ourselves to hurt from the offense.
- Forgiveness does not mean that our situation will improve. Do not be deceived into believing that once you forgive, everything will be alright. The truth is, forgiveness does not change the current situation that you are in. What forgiveness does is it releases you from the ropes that you have bound yourself with. Forgiveness brings joy and release into your life, but not necessarily to your circumstances.
- Forgiveness is releasing yourself, not your offender. Many times we find it hard to forgive because we believe that if we do that, we are ‘letting the person go without having him paying for his actions’. The fact is, the person will not be the least affected by our anger and grudges against him; and in some situations that person might not even know that you are hurt! If someone has been unjust towards you, why hurt yourself further by allowing unforgiveness to consume you?
- Forgiveness does not mean that what the other person has done is no longer wrong. When you forgive, it does not mean that the act that has been done against you is justified. What it simply means is that you have allowed God to take His rightful place as a Judge.
- Forgiveness is not an option, it is compulsory. It is stated very clearly in Matthew 6:14 that only if you forgive men when they sin against you, only then will God forgive you. And in Colossians 3:13, Paul commands us to ‘bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances..and forgive as the Lord forgave you’. Thus it is clear that forgiveness is compulsory if we want to have a right relationship with God.
- Forgiveness is not instant, it is a process. When God tells you to forgive a person, you can make that commitment to forgive, but it does not mean that you will instantly feel the freedom of forgiveness. Forgiveness usually takes time, especially when the offenses have caused deep hurt. Thus, it does not mean that if you still feel hurt over an offense then you have not forgiven.
- Forgiveness does not mean that we are victims of our offenders. When we forgive, we are not trying to tell our offenders that it is OK to hurt us in the future. Many people find it hard to forgive because they think that it will mean giving ourselves up to be hurt again. When God asks us to forgive, He is not calling us to be victims.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Forgiveness is choosing to let go of grievances a person has caused us, but it does not necessary mean that we will have to invite that person back into our lives. Forgiveness is depending on the aggrieved party, and it does not depend on the response of the offender. You can still forgive even without an apology. However, reconciliation does depend on the offender. It is only possible when both the offender and the offended person can come to terms with the offense.
POWER OF FORGIVENESS
- Forgiveness opens the door for you to receive God’s forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus made it very clear that in order for you to receive the fullness of God’s forgiveness, you need to do likewise to the people around you. Remember, we can never out-give God. The forgiveness that God has given us through the death of Jesus is so much more than the forgiveness that we can extend to those who have hurt us. In Ephesians 4:32, we are commanded to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” If God has given us so much, can’t we give a little to others, or rather, to ourselves?
Further reference (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.
- Forgiveness is the beginning of healing. Forgiveness is actually giving God your ‘right’ to be right. It is letting God be your advocate, which He really should be. And therefore, the moment you choose to forgive, you are allowing the healing process to begin in your life. It is when you invite God into that place of pain and begin to work. As you may have heard, “Unforgiveness is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”, and so by releasing your unforgiveness, you are allowing God to ‘clean the poison’.
- Forgiveness releases the grip that person has over our lives. When you have a grudge against someone, you are allowing that person to, in one way or another, have some control over your life. Each time you see that person, or even by hearing his name, you will feel that anger beginning to surge and thus, affects your mood. Think about this: What importance does this person have over your life that you should allow him (or what he does) to affect you? The moment you choose to forgive, you will actually feel such a release because that person does no longer control your life.
- Forgiveness removes the veil between you and God. When you hold unforgiveness in your heart, you may find that you are not able to pray and worship God, and read the Bible well. You may realize that unforgiveness sucks the strength out of you. But the moment you make that decision to forgive, you will find that your strength is restored, and you can come before God again.
- Forgiveness releases the blessing of God into your lives. Sometimes, the root of our failure or sickness is unforgiveness. Some people are diagnosed with terminal diseases and yet whatever they do they can’t seem to get any better. The moment they release those people whom they have a grudge with, healing takes place so rapidly that it shocks everyone. Remember, unforgiveness kills.
Steps to Forgiveness
- Know and experience God’s love and forgiveness. In Luke 4:47, when a ‘sinful’ woman came to anoint the feet of Jesus, the Pharisee who had invited Him immediately put on an holier-than-thou attitude, to which Jesus responded by saying, “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little. The moment you’ve experienced the depth of God’s love and forgiveness-what He did for you on the Cross, forgiving others will be much easier.
- Rely on God’s strength. Forgiveness is never an easy thing, especially when your offender has caused you much pain. Nevertheless, it is not impossible. Jesus was wrongly accused, betrayed by someone who was supposed to be one of his closest friend, denied by another close friend, deserted by 11 of his close friends, mocked, beaten and whipped beyond recognition, hung on the cross, ridiculed by a robber, and worst of all, suffered the worst separation of humanity when our sins separated him from His Father for the very first time, though He was without sin. And yet, on the Cross, He uttered, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Leave everything to God. Make a conscious decision to forgive, and ask God to enable you to do so.
- Acknowledge God as your advocate. In Romans 12;19, God said that ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’. Human instincts tell us that we have to defend ourselves. We think that if no one will stand up for us, then we will do it ourselves. Many people when they are hurt, will put on defensive shields and their bombs will go off anytime someone steps on their tails. But God has not left us to defend ourselves alone. He has promised to be our advocate, but only if we will leave everything to Him. When you give up your right to be RIGHT to God, you will be amazed at how things will turn out.
- Allow God to bring you back to those painful memories, dealing with them once and for all. Painful memories cannot be left undealt with. Emotional wounds, like any physical open wounds, will get infected if not properly dealt with. Ask God to bring you back to those times when you hurt, feel the impact of the hurt, and get it done once and for all. However, do not go on a ‘digging expedition’. Do not allow yourself to wallow in self-pitiness. Simply allow God to bring you through that door and begin to let go those people who have hurt you.
- Bless your enemies. This, I think, is one of the most difficult thing to do. None of us will want to wish our offenders their best. And yet, Jesus commands us to bless our enemies. In many cases healing cannot be completed unless you choose to bless your enemies. You will be surprised at how this simple command yet difficult step can bring you a step close to your healing. It is never easy, and yet, not impossible.
- Pray for those who persecute you. Pray for your enemies, not that God will strike them dead or anything like that, but pray for their well-being. Pray that God will bless them, that he will begin to work in their lives.
- Refuse to relive past memories. Many times we say that we forgive a person, but we still continue to tell other people what that person did to us. It’s like trying to play the ‘rewind’ and ‘forward’ button simultaneously. Forgiveness helps you to move forward in God but unforgiveness does otherwise. The truth is, you have not fully forgiven a person if you still continue to rehearse what that person has done. We all have to learn to let bygones be bygones. You cannot be fully released from the yoke of resentment if you choose to relive what should have been buried.
Forgiveness can bring such healing into your life. You can never know how important it is until you make that crucial decision to let go the offenses. Remember, they are not wworth holding on to so it is better to leave them to God and receive His healing instead.