A couple of days ago I posted about the dangers that come with the inability to forgive. I realize that forgiveness is often very difficult for us to extend to those who have either hurt us, or those that we love. I certainly know all to well how difficult forgiveness can
be. Over the years, I have been the victim of harbored bitterness that hurt only me. And I for one am tired of being in bondage to destructive emotions that benefit nobody and certainly doesn’t reflect well on a forgiving God that I claim to follow.
Over the past few months I have spent a great deal of time trying to learn more about what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. I am grateful for the reminder for what the Bible teaches and I want to share some of those truths in this post.
Why Should We Forgive?
The reason to forgive is not because the person who offended us is worthy of forgiveness or even asked for forgiveness. The reason for forgiveness is because Jesus commanded/not suggested that we forgive.
Matthew 6:14-16 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
So ultimately we forgive out of obedience to Christ and His teachings and what we discover along the way is that His teachings have a positive, practical impact on our lives.
Do We Choose to Forgive?
It is my conviction that forgiveness is a choice we make and it is not dependent on our emotional state of mind.
The Bible say’s in Colossians 3:13 “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Therefore forgiveness isn’t something we do whenever we feel like it but it is something do in following Christ’s example of how He has forgiven us. In other words, if we have received grace we should gladly and willing choose to extend grace through forgiveness to those who have hurt us.
Forgiveness is one way that we choose to demonstrate the character and nature of Christ to others. By withholding forgiveness, we choose to hide Christ in our lives.
Is It Possible to Forgive Even When We Don’t Feel Like It?
Sometimes we have to act the way that we wish we felt. What I mean by that is we have to simply forgive and trust God to do what needs to be done within us. In essence, we realize that forgiveness is God’s work in us therefore, we take a step in faith to forgive and trust God to finish the work. Don’t forget that it teaches us in Philippians that God will complete (finish) His good works in us.
Is There A Way We Can Know That We Have Actually Forgiven?
I think we will know that we have forgiven whenever we experience the liberty/freedom that comes with true forgiveness. We can’t forget that we are the ones that suffer the most whenever we choose to not extend grace. So whenever we get around to obeying Christ’s command to forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the resentment and hurt that previously held us captive.
One thing we all need to keep in mind is that forgiveness typically takes time. This week I was reading Matthew 18 and I was reminded of this truth again. “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)
The words of Jesus reminds us that forgiveness is not easy and that before we experience true forgiveness we have to make the choice to forgive (out of obedience to Jesus), and then forgive again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again (you get the point) until the matter is finally resolved in our hearts.