Recently I’ve had several conversations centered around the topic of forgiveness for different reasons with various people.
My mind ventures back to the not-so-distant past when I was easily offended, often hurt, and had no desire to listen to what anyone else had to say. It’s a pretty crappy cycle that one can get stuck in. What may start out as a genuine wrong against you can easily become a situation that seems the whole world is against you, no one “gets it”, you push away, others push away, and you end up more lonely, more hurt, and more empty.
I think it goes against our nature to forgive because if it is necessary to extend forgiveness then we have been been misunderstood, wronged, or hurt in some way. Our pride rises up and demands payment for the abuse. We cry out for retribution. Offense seems our right, and as we stand with our arms crossed, we stomp our feet and expect justice on our terms and swiftly.
Often when we are hurt and wounded we lash out and hurt others, or we nurse our wounds in the corner, letting them fill with the infection of offense until it destroys some part of us.
That is why forgiveness is so essential.
“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” Bryant H. McGill
Whether we like it or not, Jesus commands us to forgive others.
In Matthew 6:14-16 He says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV)
That seems pretty harsh. Part of me rises up inside and shouts, “But do you realize what he/she has done to me?! How can I forgive that?!”
And what about when someone just keeps doing things that need forgiveness? They keep rejecting us. They keep wounding us. They keep misunderstanding and treating us wrongly. Surely it isn’t okay and I don’t need to forgive, right?
No it isn’t okay, but it doesn’t negate my responsibility to forgive.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Obviously from this verse, sometimes you have to forgive over and over and over. And it isn’t fun. And it isn’t easy. But it IS necessary.
If I am holding on to offenses and hurts the truth is that I am the one that suffer from it. The other person may not even know that they have done something that someone touched a tender spot in my heart and so they go on their merry way while I sit offended. It hurts me when I don’t extend forgiveness. It holds me prisoner and the enemy rejoices. And it isn’t okay.
Nazi concentration camp survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, once said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.”
I have been hurt by people in life. I will be hurt by people in the future.
You have been hurt at some point in life, and I’m sorry to say that you WILL be hurt again in the future.
What helps me forgive and keep loving?
When I’m reminded that Christ, the One who was completely blameless was executed and resurrected so that I could be forgiven. It is then that I find a little bit of strength to CHOOSE to obey and forgive.
In light of this truth my hurt, though still painful, seems smaller and reminds me that I, too, have hurt others. The ability to choose forgiveness is a little easier in light of the cross, knowing that I, too, have wronged others and have been desperately in need of forgiveness.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Is there someone today that you need to extend forgiveness to? Is there someone you need to go to and ask for forgiveness?
If Corrie Ten Boom could forgive the atrocities she faced during the Holocaust, what excuse do we have? Even greater though is Christ’s example of laying down His life and offering forgiveness to sinful, weak, guilty humans deserving of death and His command for us to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
There is freedom in forgiveness. You hold the key to let yourself out of the prison. Why stay captive?