Forgiving Others - Direction from God
Forgiving others may seem to be a choice, and in one sense it is a choice, but God has been very clear about forgiveness. He has given us specific direction in numerous Scriptures, all of which can be summed up in just one word -- forgive! God's Word says, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25). "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).
God is saying that it is in our own best interest to forgive! He is not talking about what is in the best interest of the person who needs to be forgiven. We are the ones who God is trying to protect. We are the ones who receive the most benefit from forgiveness, not the other person. A spirit of unforgiveness complicates and compromises our daily walk with God. Forgiving others releases us from anger and allows us to receive the healing we need. The whole reason God has given us specific direction is because He does not want anything to stand between us and Him. God's love for us is beyond our comprehension. Forgiving others spares us from the consequences of living out of an unforgiving heart.
Forgiving others does not carry with it a single decision that we need to ponder. God has not qualified one sin as being more grievous to Him than another and He has not qualified one sin committed against us as warranting forgiveness and another not. For example, God is not saying, "If a person lies to you or steals from you, you should forgive him, but if they abuse you or harm your child, you can hold them in unforgiveness." He is saying to forgive everyone, always, and do it immediately.
Forgiving Others - A Personal Story
Forgiving others often takes time. Amy was no longer living with her alcoholic and abusive husband Tim, but she had not been able to forgive him for the 32 years of abuse that she had experienced. She knew she should forgive him, but she could not bring herself to do it. She did not feel he deserved her forgiveness. This went on for several years until one day in a counseling session with Amy, I asked her to listen with her heart and be open to anything the Lord might say to her. During that quiet time, the Lord helped Amy see that He loved Tim, while disapproving of Tim's actions. The Lord made it clear to Amy that the abuse was not her fault. As she looked up from her quiet posture, she related how all of the reasons why she should not forgive were no longer valid. I asked if she was ready to forgive and she said yes.
Amy's recognition that the Lord truly loved Tim, while disapproving his actions, caused her to have a change of heart. When she made the choice to forgive Tim, the feelings that had been compromising her life-anger, resentment, fear, misunderstanding, and confusion-left her heart. Forgiving Tim brought peace to Amy's heart.
Forgiving Others - The Divine Example
We have a divine example for forgiving others! God knew that man needed forgiveness, so He sent His Son Jesus to deliver all of mankind from the eternal consequences of their sins (1 John 4:9-10). Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Jesus not only had the power to forgive, but to grant us the ability to forgive others just as we have been forgiven.
Forgiving Others - Personal Action
Forgiving others often starts as a decision of surrender-an act of our will. This surrender invites God to begin working in our lives in a deeper level, allowing God to heal us. Just as with Amy, we can ask God to enlighten us with the understanding that we need to fully forgive from our hearts. We simply need to make the choice to be open to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Remember, forgiveness does not justify the deed or the person, it does not provide God's forgiveness for their actions, because only God can do that. While nothing can undo the past, we can do something about the condition of our own present and future. Forgiving others makes a way for our own healing to begin.
If you are willing to forgive, but you are unsure how, consider the prayer below:
Father God, I need your help and your insights. Today I have gained a better understanding of forgiving others and with your help, I fully forgive from my heart. Just as you have freely forgiven me, I forgive them. Father, I ask you to forgive me for hurting others out of my own hurt and to heal my relationships with others. I pray all of this in Jesus' precious name and by whom all forgiveness and healing was made possible. Thank you for loving me in ways I'll never comprehend. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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