Forgiveness is not a popular topic these days. We know we should forgive but in our worst moments, we might rather just get even. Forgiveness can seem hard, complicated, and sometimes we rationalize that it is the thing “I just can’t do”. This is especially true in relationships where we have been hurt time and time again by a spouse, child, sibling, or friend. Following are two important points to remember that will help you forgive others.
First, we forgive because we have been forgiven by Christ. Consider Ephesians 4:32. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” To me, this sounds like a model for forgiveness. How does God forgive us? His forgiveness is limitless. He forgives every offense: the big ones and the little ones. His forgiveness is offered and granted in love and is not grudging. He really does forgive and promises never to bring our sin up against us ever again. How do we measure up to his example?
Our ability to forgive others is based on our own experience of being forgiven by God. When we find it difficult to forgive others, instead of mustering will-power, we should ask God for a deeper understanding of our own sin so that we can confess it and receive God’s forgiveness. Are we daily confessing sin? Are we daily receiving his forgiveness? If so, that will go a long way toward empowering us to quickly and eagerly forgive others.
Second, forgiveness restores and builds relationships. Our relationship with God is restored by His forgiveness of us thru Jesus Christ. All relationships depend on and are strengthened by mutually forgiving one another. When we sin against another person, a wedge is driven between us. When we forgive someone we are saying in real terms that they are more important than whatever happened. This also means that we are willing to absorb the cost that real forgiveness requires. This begins with the conscious decision not to hold their sin against them. But this could include other costs such as your own time, inconvenience, absorbing emotional costs or the even the cost to replace something the person cannot afford to replace themselves.
One of the miracles of forgiveness is the restoration it can produce in relationships. When forgiveness is sincerely requested and graciously given, a relationship passes an important test that enables it to grow; actually making the relationship stronger. Of course, there are situations where significant sins or sins that have been a pattern can set relationships back. Forgiveness can be granted, but perhaps trust needs to be restored. This will take time. However, only forgiveness provides the necessary foundation upon which rebuilding can be accomplished.
Working closely in a business can resemble a family; distrust, competition or real cooperation. Harmony builds a team, a family and a business. I’ll never forget a time as work when a senior manager of another department called me at 5 pm to advise me that the next day one of my engineers would report to him! I had a major melt down and stomped out feeling satisfied that my response registered my anger over his stealing one of my best engineers. On the drive home, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sinful, angry response. Early the next morning I was in the manager’s office and asked him to forgive me for the way I responded. His response: “Ok… if you are sorry”. This presented the opportunity to explain the difference between “sorry – I got caught” and “forgive – a contract to want to work together”. Our personal relationship grew stronger and the new quality control group the engineer developed improved the reputation of our products.
Are you struggling to forgive someone? If so, be encouraged first that God has forgiven you for your sins. The Psalmist tells us as far as the east is from the west, so has God removed our sins from us. This provides a powerful motive for forgiving others. Second, forgiveness provides a foundation upon which restoration of the relationship can take place. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your relationships? Forgiveness makes that possible; with God and with others.
Lightsey Wallace is Executive Director of The Psalm 119 Project. To receive a FREE e-copy of his Psalm 119 devotional, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.