SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
By Clarence L. Haynes Jr.
Forgiveness falls into the category of things we know we must do, yet it is something we often find difficult to do. I know because I struggled with it for many years. When people confronted me about it, I justified my reason for choosing not to forgive. It’s amazing the number of ways you will justify your actions when you choose not to do something you know you should.
However, I missed that within the act of forgiveness, there was the power to transform my heart, heal my wounds, and break the chains of bitterness that had taken root in my life. Sadly, it took me over twenty years to experience that, and it was my choice.
There is a truth about forgiveness that is unique when you exercise it. Forgiveness is not really about the other person; it is about you. I know we like to frame it as if we are doing the other person a favor, but in reality, you are helping yourself most when you forgive. In many instances, including my own, the one being damaged the most by not forgiving is you, not the person who hurt you.
Knowing the benefits of forgiveness, you would think it would increase the desire to forgive, yet we often find the opposite to be true. For many, one of the most difficult things they will have to do in life is forgive. Deciding to forgive is hard enough, but even if you forgive, then we can become like Peter, wondering how many times we should forgive the person who sins against us. We will give you one, maybe even two or three, but after that, all bets are off.
How do we approach forgiveness as followers of Christ?
As followers of Christ, we are called to embrace forgiveness, both receiving it from God and extending it to others. The challenge is forgiveness may require you to look past the hurtful words, betrayal, and offenses that may have left lasting scars on your heart. It is the pain of the wound that tempts us to hold on to grudges and sometimes to look for ways to seek revenge (that only applies to the most unholy people, not you or I). Yet, as great as the hurt is that you may have experienced, it is through forgiveness that you find true liberation and experience the transformative love of Christ.
Jesus modeled forgiveness for us.
When we look to the example of Jesus, we see a remarkable display of forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, suffering excruciating pain, He pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus, in his infinite grace, offered forgiveness even to those who crucified him. Such is the depth of love and mercy we are called to emulate.
Choosing to forgive does not diminish the pain you have experienced or justify the wrongdoing. Instead, it releases you from the burden of bitterness and resentment that comes with unforgiveness. When you forgive, you allow God’s healing and restoration to take place within your heart.
If that is not motivation enough, let me give you one more. God has forgiven you. When you grasp that, then you realize unforgiveness is an act of self-righteousness because you are saying that person does not deserve forgiveness. Guess what, we don’t either. Yet we receive it from God. That is why we should offer forgiveness without hesitation. God has forgiven the many sins we have committed against him; surely we can forgive the sins our brother or sister have committed against us.
Your liberation is in your forgiveness.
In the process of forgiveness, you will find freedom. You will be set free from the chains of anger and hatred, and you will open yourself to receive God’s peace and joy. Forgiveness can also unlock the door to reconciliation, fostering renewed relationships and rebuilding trust. Honestly, some relationships may be beyond repair, but there is no relationship that is beyond forgiveness.
If someone has wounded you, then surrender your hurts and wounds to the Lord. Ask him to give you the grace to forgive, remembering how much Christ has forgiven us. When that happens, get ready to experience the liberation that flows from a heart that forgives.
The recent images our world has seen have been of bitterness, anger, and desire for revenge. It’s time we, as the followers of Christ, show his love by extending forgiveness to others. When we do, we can become instruments of reconciliation and bring healing to broken people.
Intersecting faith and life:
A prayer for help with forgiveness.
Dear Lord, thank you for your incredible gift of forgiveness. Help me to embrace forgiveness as you have shown it to me. Release me from the chains of bitterness and resentment, and fill my heart with your love and compassion. Teach me to extend forgiveness to others, even when it is difficult, as I remember how much you have forgiven me. Use me as an instrument of reconciliation and healing in this broken world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.