“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” CS Lewis
Let me take a wild guess and say that you’ve been hurt before. Oh, you have? Me too! Now that’s not something I am proud of but it’s life; we will face hurt. We will face disappointment. We will receive lies instead of truth, experience betrayals and broken hearts. People will walk away from us and say cruel things.
We live in a broken world, which means we will both be hurt and cause hurt.
It’s unavoidable. We are not immune. Unfortunately, pain is a part of this broken world. We cannot change that. We have no control over what others do to us. But we do have control over how we respond to those hurts.
“Bitterness, resentment, and anger have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours.” Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited
The reality of this is unforgiveness is ungodly. It is not what God desires for us. We need to be people of compassion, humility, slow to anger but quick to love. If you’re struggling with this, just look at Jesus. Here is God-incarnate, full of unconditional love and mercy, and what does He say while He’s on the cross:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 NIV
Here are the people who aren’t just saying bad things about Him; they are murdering Him. They are taking His life. And yet, Christ says forgiveness. He did nothing but show love and compassion to them. He healed them from ailments, gave them sight, rose them from the dead, blessed them. Yet, they screamed, “crucify Him!” And His response? Forgiveness.
“It is in our forgiveness of other people’s sins against us that we reveal the fact that we have been truly forgiven by God.” Alistair Begg
“So you should rather turn to forgive and comfort [them]…” 2 Corinthians 2:7a ESV
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the LORD forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV
I know it is hard. I know it’s against our fleshly nature. But it is a command from our LORD. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is what we are called to do as believers. Forgiveness can help create harmony and healthy communities. It removes the disease of bitterness from your soul. You may never want to associate with that person/s again – and that’s totally fine! I have many of those in my life too. But in choosing to not forgive them, you are tarnishing your own spirit and heart.
“When I understood that forgiveness does not mean reentry, I was able to find peace.” Alex Elle
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
“They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” Titus 3:2 NLT
Like I’ve said before, it’s a command. God does not desire for us to be bitter and angry, holding grudges and harboring unforgiveness. These are not of Him! They are ungodly at the finest.
“Repent of this wickedness and pray to the LORD in the hope that He may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Acts 8:22-23 NIV
Do not become this person. Do not be held captive by this sin. Look after the example God has set before us. Yes, He is completely perfect and holy, whereas we are not, but we are to strive to be like Him in every aspect of our lives. To reflect Him is what being a Christian is all about.
“Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the LORD to handle the matter.” Proverbs 20:22 NLT
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Romans 12:14 & 17 NLT
As humans, a natural tendency is to get even. To hurt that person/s as much as they have hurt you. No no no! That is not your place. Your place, your duty, is to show compassion, mercy, and forgive; it is to show the love of God through your actions and speech.
If you’re not forgiving, then that is a hindrance to the influence you will have as a follower of Christ and your growth as a Christian.
We’re not perfect, so don’t try to be. No wonder people who aren’t believers call the church a building full of hypocrites. We can never be perfect on this side of heaven. But we surely can do our best, with the strength and grace of God in us, to be as much of a godly example as possible; to truly live like Christ in a messed-up and painful world.
“Yet He was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath.” Psalm 78:38 NIV
“But the LORD our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” Daniel 9:9 NLT
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV
God didn’t have to forgive us. He doesn’t need us. He is complete on His own. But He chooses to love us, to cherish us, to have a relationship with us. He wants that! To be in community with God is what we are created for. Sin breaks that connection, but forgiveness restores that connection.
“Refusal to forgive reveals we have minimized our offense against God and we have maximized a brother’s offense against us.” Alistair Begg
“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” Micah 7:18 NIV
“For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.” Psalm 86:5 ESV
“I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves [and others]. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.” CS Lewis
To not forgive is as if you are saying you are above it, above God even. If God is capable of showing such grace and mercy to man – who is born evil, who is born with tendencies against their Creator, to those who cried out and followed through with killing Him on a cross – then who are we to not forgive? I like how that verse in Micah ends with “delight to show mercy.” Are we delighting in forgiving?
I know the lies hurt. I know the betrayals have a vicious sting and the mean words cut like knives. I have experienced them both inside and outside the Church. I haven’t fully forgiven those people yet. I definitely have not perfected forgiving others. Heck no, I have such a long road ahead! So I am writing this to myself; reminding myself that this is what God calls me to: humility and vulnerability, graciousness and being merciful.
“The most beautiful thing we can learn, is how to let go; of grudges, of past, poisonous people. It’s a great measure of courage.”
Does it take courage to forgive? Yes. Does it take a supernatural strength? A heavenly mercy? Yes. To forgive means opening that wound up for a brief moment to recall what happened and forgive the sin that was done to you.
To forgive is to let go.
If you don’t, you’re allowing the roots of bitterness to grow in your heart. If you don’t, you are giving that person and those situations power over your life. They are not deserving of that. You are not deserving of that. Choose to let it go, and to not take it back. Then you will be free from that bondage.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight” Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Pray about your unforgiveness, take that step to swallow your pride, and show mercy to those who have done you wrong. Pray for those who have done evil towards you, whether intentional or not. A friend once told me that in praying for those that hurt them, they were able to find the capability to forgive.
Forgiveness is not an overnight thing; it will take time. It will take turning to God, and asking Him for the supernatural strength to let go of your anger and hurt, and graciously say, “I forgive you.”