Do I Really Have to Forgive?: Finding Freedom in Forgiveness
Hey y’all!! It’s been awhile but I’m back and so excited to share a few quick thoughts on the topic… of forgiveness. Yup, I said it, forgiveness. One of the most dreaded Christian principles and commandments from God because let’s face it, sometimes it’s just plain ol’ hard to forgive and quite frankly we just don’t want to! Once someone has wronged us, “it’s a wrap” and we can be brutal, thinking that the person or the act is just down right unforgivable. I’ve found that the number one reason that most people can't forgive or let me rephrase that, they choose not to do so, is because they think "but I would have never done that to you". I think it’s safe to say we have all basically held someone to an untouchable standard which is dangerous because newsflash, no one is going to be exactly like us and all human beings make mistakes, whether intentional or not. I know I have had situations where I have had the nerve to become self-righteous and actually think I have the right to say I won’t forgive someone because I think their action/s is somehow indicative of their entire character. We must not allow the need for reciprocity lead us to a heart of stone with no grace for those who wrong us. Every time I find myself thinking this same thought I challenge myself to stop and think about all the ways I have sinned against God and how He’d always have the right to say "but I'd never do that to you". Let’s look at a couple of reasons why it’s pretty important and actually in your best interest to forgive.
- Give grace as it is given unto you- We have to learn to give people grace and forgive because we're given unmerited grace and forgiveness by God. More importantly we have a duty to forgive if we want to be forgiven by God. Matthew 6:14-15 boldly states "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." Ephesians 4:32 also states "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Now hear me loud and clear when I say “do not be naïve”. Always remember that forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. You must forgive and then you handle that person accordingly. Meaning if the friendship is severely broken and there is no way that the broken pieces can be mended, you pray, be led by the Holy Spirit, and learn how to love them from afar. When you take this approach, you don’t have to burn any bridges or get the “cut off spirit”, but rather that person simply takes on a new role in your life.
- Forgiveness isn’t for the person, it’s for you- The second reason we should all forgive is for the mere fact that forgiveness isn't for the person it's for us! Once you forgive, you're essentially saying I am taking on this debt. The word "forgive" in Hebrew is "nasa" which literally means "to lift, carry, or take". Forgiveness is very sacrificial in that way because you're taking the blame and the weight up off of that person for whatever they have done and you are taking it to God and laying it at His feet. The act of forgiveness can be pretty transactional in that way, if you let it. The problem for some lies in the fact that you don't always get anything in return (an apology) and that is okay. John 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” God sees all and He won’t let it go unnoticed because you're being obedient to His word! Don’t believe me? Take a look at some scriptures outlining God’s blessings for those who follow through with His Word: Romans 2:6-7 “God will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Luke 11:28 “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
- If you want to love more like God, you MUST forgive- God forgives us because of His unwavering love for us! Just think about all the sins you've committed against God before you really knew.. and don't stop there, no now think about all the times you've sinned (and still fall short) against Him and needed forgiveness once you became a part of the kingdom. I'll wait... it's a lot on the record isn't it? And despite all of it, God sent His one and only Son who had no sin, to bear all of ours so we'd have relationship and endless connection with God the Father (Isaiah 53:3-5; John 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18). And do you know why He did that? Because of His LOVE. God forgives us through Christ simply because embedded in His very character is love, he is love and that love runs so deep for us that we'll be forgiven if we repent and ask Him to do so (1 John 1:9).
You might be thinking we'll that's wonderful and I'm eternally grateful... but I'm not God, I can't just forgive people over and over again. My response to that is I get it and I often think the same thoughts BUT we can forgive if we practice LOVE. In our quest to be more like Christ we must love like Him. Out of our love for people will flow our ability to grace them and bestow forgiveness upon them when we really think they least deserve it! One of the most beloved scriptures, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” To some this depiction of love seems impossible to aspire and or live up to. However, I believe we all can! We are made in the image of God, which means He has given us some of His amazing characteristics, such as kindness, grace, love, mercy and even the big ones that come only through Christ, which are holiness and righteousness. We have to reflect the love of God even when it hurts and this very practice will enable you to forgive and truly mean it!
Okay that’s it for my spiel lol. I just want you all to remember it is not optional to forgive, it's biblical and a commandment given to us by God. As a Christian man or woman you have to forgive, no matter how hard, no matter how "unforgivable" the offense or the grievance may seem, you have to take it to God and let Him heal your heart. He is always the answer to how we can achieve anything in this life, and forgiveness is no different. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get to heaven and hear God tell me my sins have not been forgiven because back in 2017 I did not forgive such and such… no not me and I pray not you either!
Finally I have 3 things I want you to do:
- Think about the last time you had to forgive someone. How were you able to do so? How long did it take?
- Challenge yourself with this question: Is there anyone that I have yet to forgive?
- If your answer to number 2 is yes, get on your knees and talk to God about the situation and ask how you can do so through the strength and love of Christ.
Well until next time... whatever you do, do it all unto the glory of God!