In your life, you will be hurt by others; sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. How you handle that hurt determines your happiness. When you bottle up hurt in your life and hold onto it, that is called resentment. If somebody hurt you years ago and you’re still holding onto it, it will poison your life. For your own health and happiness, you must learn to forgive.
The Bible says forgive and be forgiven. In fact, Jesus says, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (Matthew 6:15 TEV). They’re inter-related.
For your own sake, let go of the past. If somebody hurt you, let go of it, release them. That’s one of the values of prayer. It helps you unload. Forgiveness is the only way to get rid of the past. Forgive them and let it go. Get on with life. Forgiveness erases the videotape of that hurt memory that keeps playing over and over in your mind.
Today, my wife Sonja and I are celebrating our 7th anniversary. In my own marriage, the times I’ve felt closest to my wife, the times of most intimacy and oneness, have been times after an upset or blow up. We’ve worked the thing through, we’ve both confessed to each other and asked forgiveness, and we give our hearts to each other anew. The oneness that comes out of that kind of experience just can’t be explained.
When we let go of our hurts and release our hearts in forgiveness to others, we are reflecting the grace of our heavenly Father who forgave us and continues to forgive us. It means we’ve given God our love; we’ve given God our lives, and, in doing that, we reflect God and truly worship God.
There is no limitation on the number of times we should forgive. We don’t forgive because a person deserves it, but because God alone will judge and repay. The fact that a person has been forgiven does not mean that they will not be required to make amends in some way – especially if they have committed a crime, for example.
Jesus taught that they will have to pay the full price for their action, to make amends to those who’ve been wronged. But bringing people to moral and spiritual justice is God’s job, not ours. We should never build our lives around seeing others brought to judgement, especially when we are the ones who’ve been hurt. We may sometimes be God’s instrument in bringing correction to someone else, but that shouldn’t be our obsession.
It says in Matthew 18:22 ‘Jesus answered, “I tell you, [you should forgive] not seven times, but seventy times seven.’ (KJV)
Jesus taught that forgiveness must be an ongoing and persistent choice in my life. His disciples asked him how many times they should forgive an offense: should they forgive seven times, for example? Jesus replied, ‘Not seven, but seventy times seven.’ He wasn’t giving a number to be taken literally. He wasn’t saying that we should forgive someone up to 490 times and no more. After all, imagine you did try to forgive someone 490 times for the same offense – it’s beyond imagining, and that’s what Jesus meant.
Because of that we want to keep our hearts clear before God, and move into a healthy and fulfilling future. Therefore whether we feel like it or not we will choose to forgive, as many times as it takes.
Prayer: ‘Jesus, please help me to forgive others as you forgive me – as many times as it takes. I know that you will hold people accountable for the things they do to me, and I choose to release that into your hands.’
We live in a wonderful yet often painful world. Nothing can totally isolate or insulate us from the disappointments and losses of life. Even good people sometimes experience bad things. In the midst of life’s struggles, we all accept that forgiveness is a good idea. Forgiveness, said one writer, is God’s antidote for bitterness, wrath and anger. But actually acting on that idea is another thing: forgiving is not an easy thing to do. Before we can learn how to be better ‘forgivers’, we need to recognize what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not giving approval to what someone else did to you. Nor is it excusing someone else’s mistakes, or trivializing the offense, saying that it doesn’t really matter. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean saying that your feelings are of no importance and it doesn’t mean that you commit yourself to a relationship with that person in the future. Forgiveness is not naive. It does not say ‘I was not hurt, you did not hurt me.’ Forgiveness is very honest. Forgiveness is not easy because it seems to run against every natural human emotion, every natural response. Naturally speaking, we will try to defend ourselves or even to fight back. Forgiveness requires that we move past those basic instincts to something higher.
Ephesians 4:32 ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (NIV)
We forgive not because we don’t feel hurt, or because we don’t have a right to feel offended. We forgive because it is the godly thing to do, and because God forgives us. No matter how great someone’s offense against you, your past offense against God is infinitely greater. And, thank God, he has forgiven you. Letting that awesome power of forgiveness and release run through your heart, like a river through a canyon, is the key to finding lasting peace and closure.
Prayer: ‘Lord, I know that forgiveness is not easy, and it doesn’t feel natural. But I choose to forgive, to allow your releasing power to flow through my heart and mind today. I release others from their debt, because you did that for me. Help me to be a forgiving person.’