I heard an incredible song while driving today - Forgiveness by Matthew West. It meant so much to me, as if God has purposefully sent it to me at that point in time to help me through a personal struggle. Struggles have ensued upon all of us at one point or another. When that happens, how easy is it to forgive those who hurt you? How easy is it for you to seek your own responsibility as well?
Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors." I used to think that was a simple request for God to forgive my sins and to help me forgive those who hurt me in return. But, thanks to a fabulous sermon a couple weeks ago at my church, I learned something far deeper in the meaning of that line: Forgive my sins against You to same degree as I am willing to forgive those who hurt me.
God will forgive us our sins when we truly repent. However, that line in The Lord's Prayer signifies that He will forgive us as much as we offer forgiveness to others. So, if I forgive those who hurt me but I struggle to mean it from the depth of my heart, then I cannot truly understand the depths of forgiveness my Savior offers me for my own transgressions.The bottom line is this: Forgive much so you can be forgiven much. It is only when we truly move to the point of deep, significant, unconditional forgiveness of those who hurt us that we can love them as Jesus directed and understand the same depth of forgiveness from our Savior.
One of the best ways to really offer heart-felt forgiveness is to pray for our enemies. When you spend time in earnest prayer for those who hurt you, it's amazing how much God softens your heart toward them. Only then can you begin to find God's grace that helps you to truly, and deeply, forgive. And what if they never apologize or even ask your forgiveness? What if your debtors don't believe they've done anything wrong? On the cross, Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." That's forgiving much ... to the 'nth degree! So, the answer is obvious. God has called us to forgive our debtors, regardless of whether they ask for it or ever apologize for their transgressions. Their own forgiveness is up to them and God, whenever they are ready to go to Him in repentance. If we forgive much, then the love much overflows from our hearts and we can genuinely begin praying for our transgressors to seek their own forgiveness at that point.
And the best news of all is this: When you forgive much, you will love much and be loved much in return. God's forgiveness is always much, regardless of the depth of our transgressions. His love is beyond our capacity to understand. And, when we lean on Him to help us share that depth of forgiveness and love with our debtors, that's when we can know, personally, the depth of His love and forgiveness for us. God has shown me the freedom of truly forgiving much in recent days. I thank Him for that experience.
Take a moment to listen to the words of this song (linked below). I pray it touches your heart as it did mine, to help you find a way to forgive much for those who've hurt you. And if you've hurt others, I pray this devotion and song will help you realize your own need to seek God's forgiveness first and then go to those you've hurt as well.
Janice K. Davis, her husband, Larry, and their daughter, Sydni, live in St. Louis, MO. Janice's newest release, Finding My Smile (OakTara), shares a story of love, forgiveness, and salvation in the face of life's struggles. If you've been touched by Alzheimer's, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or depression in life, you'll find encouragement through God's precious message in her novel. Janice is currently blessed to teach writing and storytelling to a group of amazing 6th-graders.