Choosing to Forgive Others
God has given us the wonderful gift of forgiveness for our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We must take that forgiveness, receive it, and live in it. The harder step now is to pass that forgiveness on to others who wrong us, just like the example God has provided. Paul tells the Colossian believers (3:13) “The Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Following the Lord’s example of forgiveness, it is given freely, at a cost, with the promise to not bring it up again, and with the purpose of bringing about restoration to the relationship.
Motivation: Why forgive others?
Matthew 6:12-15 reminds us that God’s forgiveness of our sins can only be received when we forgive others of their sins against us. This is a hard pill to swallow, because it means that if I want a good relationship with God (under the freedom of His forgiveness), I must do my part to have a good relationship with people (under the freedom of having forgiven). Matthew 18:21-35 relates a negative story, demonstrating the awful consequences of not forgiving others. Unforgiveness results in bondage, bad attitudes, a broken relationship, and unforgiveness from God! That should be plenty motivation.
Determination: How often to forgive?
Peter asked Christ how often he should forgive. The answer again is hard to accept with our human, logical minds. We must forgive beyond counting. Jesus said (Matthew 18:21-22), ‘I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’ And who counts up to 490 times? This does not mean being a doormat. If a person does not repent, and keeps doing the offense, then perhaps it is time for some distance between you and that person. The point is, no matter how often we mess up, God forgives. Therefore, we should show the same mercy to others.
Perpetuation: How much to forgive?
Is there a sin so great that you cannot forgive the person? Often it feels like it, yet you must ask yourself the question: ‘Is there a sin that Christ cannot forgive me for?’ If the answer is no to this question, then the answer is also no to the first question. This means we must forgive any and all offenses against us.
Evaluation: How must I forgive?
Forgiveness must be given quickly, generously, and out of kindness. Since your forgiveness of others affects God’s forgiveness of you, then you will want to get it done quickly. Also, you have no idea when God will call you home, so you must get to it! God’s grace is generous in giving out forgiveness with no restriction on who gets it, and how often it is given, so must also our attitude of forgiveness be. Ephesians (4:32) reminds us to forgive out of tenderness and compassion for others, wanting them to live under the freedom that forgiveness brings.
Accommodation: What does it look like to forgive?
Just because you forgive a person does not mean that you must automatically trust them again; that must be rebuilt. Forgiveness means that you have released the offense and desire to work towards reconciliation. If there is true repentance on the other side, then that can happen, but you cannot force repentance ... and our forgiveness must not depend on repentance. This does not mean we do not confront the sin. Luke 17:3 reminds us that if a ‘brother’ (fellow Christian) sins against you, rebuke him, ‘and if he repents, forgive him.’ If this person does repent, we must not for any reason refuse him or her the forgiveness they ask for. If this person does not repent, we must not hold on to the offense, seeking constantly through prayer and loving rebuke to restore the relationship.
Take time today to search your heart and your memory for anyone that you have not forgiven. Anger and bitterness are sure signs. Today is the day to release that hurt to God. Forgive as God has forgiven you. If God lays it on your heart to talk to that person, then do not delay. Dealing with hurt and being free to forgive brings a freedom and peace that the world longs for! Let us be examples of Christ to our world, and be quick to forgive.