WHAT IT MEANS TO FORGIVE
In the message “Forgive As He Forgave” we saw that our forgiveness of others should be based on recognizing the magnitude of forgiveness we have been given through faith in Jesus. A true understanding of God’s mercy toward us ought to compel us to be merciful to others. But still, forgiveness remains difficult and somewhat hard to define. Some hurts last a long, long time!
There are those today trying to forgive child abusers, murderers, habitually unfaithful spouses, and a whole list of emotional and physical abuses. I have seen many relationships where small hurts have piled up for several years and now there is nothing but a tangled mess of pain. How do we truly forgive when it hurts so much? Where do we even begin? And how do we know when we have properly forgiven?
“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.”
All forgiveness begins with a belief that God desires us to forgive in any situation; “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew6:15). I’m not sure how to fully interpret this verse, but one thing we know…our call to forgive is serious! If we are unable, or unwilling, to forgive we need to spend more time reflecting on the forgiveness of Christ. Do we really understand? Do we really believe? Our ability to forgive identifies our focus: Is our priority on Christ or on our own needs and desires, hurts and pain?
But forgiveness is not simply saying the words “I forgive you.” Rather, forgiveness is canceling the emotional debt. It means we love and earnestly pray for blessings in the other person’s life; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We should be able to think about the other person without bitterness, rage, or anger. We should be able to pray for an increase in their ministry or business, more peace in their family, and a closer relationship with Jesus. It’s amazing how much healing takes place in our own heart when we sincerely pray for those who have caused us pain.
However, forgiveness does not necessarily mean a relationship must continue as if the hurt never occurred. Our heart may be free of all anger and bitterness – we may earnestly pray for the one who caused us pain – and yet, we no longer trust or enjoy their company. My forgiveness of a child abuser does not require me to leave my children in their care. I can love with a Christ-like love and pray without anger and yet guard my physical body and emotional and spiritual heart. We must trust God to guide our steps in this area.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us are carrying some bitterness toward another person today. These burdensome emotions should not continue in the heart of a Child of God, and the only road to release them is through the gate of forgiveness. Let’s ask God to purify our heart. Let’s refocus on the cross and release our burdens to Him. Let’s honor our Father by showing the world what it means to forgive.
Have a Christ-centered day!