God is our God of love, and because He is a God of love, He is a God of forgiveness. Consequently, if we want to demonstrate His character in our lives, we need to be people of forgiveness. God only asks us to do things which, in the end, benefit us. So, even though forgiveness often seems like an arduous task, we know forgiving others leads to liberation in our own lives. I’ve heard it said that forgiving others is not really for the other person, but for the person doing the forgiving. I think it is truly for both, and it is another way to honor God and His Lordship in our lives.
First, when we forgive others just because God has asked us to, it demonstrates that we trust Him and His counsel, His way of doing things. That allows us to let loose of the reins and rest in Him. It allows us to step out of the boxing ring, set aside the battle, and find another avenue to victory. Relinquishing control to our loving Father always brings about His best in our lives and opens the way to His perfect plan for each one of us. I’ve made enough mistakes in my life that I don’t have to just take His Word for it when He tells me in Scripture that His ways are better and higher than mine (Isa. 55:9), that I know in part and see in part (1 Cor. 13:9,12), but He knows the end from the beginning. I have seen Him make my messes right. I have experienced Him turning my mishaps into steps toward glory and victory. So, when He tells me to forgive those who have hurt or offended me, I am going to do that no matter what.
One recurring theme that comes up when we discuss forgiveness is, “How can I forgive someone who has been so mean or so wrong or so unfair?“ That’s a fair question. It isn’t easy in the flesh; it requires faith to do that. Face it, any time we have been wronged, our natural reaction is to defend ourselves, but every time we do that, we are really acting in fear if we haven’t stopped to forgive first. We are in fear that our needs are not being or will not be met, that we will somehow lose out or won’t get a fair shake in the situation. No one likes to be hurt or slighted. Remember, however, that when we are in God’s hands, we are resting in hands of favor and blessing (Ps. 5:12 NIV). When we let go of that fear and trust God to vindicate us, we are on our way to healing. He says He will make “our righteous reward shine like the dawn and [our] vindication like the noonday sun“ (Psalm 37:5). Forgiveness is one of the roots of healing. We can’t get the short end of the stick when we do things God‘s way. So, we just step out in faith and obedience and say, “I forgive So-and-So and what he/she did to me.“ Rather than hang onto that “natural“ desire to get even or get what belongs to us, we choose the spiritual road of forgiveness. God is true to His Word, and He will bring peace and restoration to our souls.
Another recurring question is, “How can I forgive someone who hasn’t told me they are sorry for what they have done?“ Forgiveness is not about whether someone has apologized to you; it is about what you are going to do. You have a choice to follow Jesus‘ example or not to do so. Do you recall anywhere in Scripture where Jesus chose not to forgive? Yes, Scripture does tell us to forgive so that we may also be forgiven, and that of course applies to those who have wronged you, but you are not their Lord and Savior, and you are not their conscience or their judge. What they do is between them and God, and what you do is between you and God. You cannot force others to apologize to you or seek your forgiveness. You can choose to do what God has asked you to do. Forgiving another, even when they have not apologized, frees you from the bitterness and anger that the devil wants you to take on and bear. It frees your soul from bondage and baggage. When you forgive, your heart is free to love with the love of God, and His love always brings healing. He loved the woman at the well who had had five husbands and was in relationship with another man. He did not condemn her, but simply offered her living water (Jn. 4). He loved the woman caught in adultery and even said that He did not condemn her (Jn. 8). He sent away her unforgiving judges and simply said, “Go and sin no more.“ As far as I see in the Scripture, she didn’t ask for forgiveness, but she was forgiven. Shouldn’t we follow the same example? Did the Roman authorities, the chief priests, rulers, and people seek Christ’s forgiveness when they executed Him? Though they did not understand the eternal ramifications of what they were doing, it appears in Scripture as though they had a definite, determined plot plan to destroy our Lord, an innocent man. Yet, on the cross, Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).“ Oh that we would respond in kind every time we are harmed by someone’s wrong acts or words. Oh let my heart be, “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.“ Even in the act of forgiveness, let me assume the best of the other person. Let my heart be to release them no matter what.
Lastly, it is so important to forgive ourselves. Many have such a hard time with this and go through life with a sin consciousness, a failure mentality, feelings of guilt or shame because they focus on their wrongs instead of who they are in Christ – the redeemed of the Lord, the forgiven, the righteous, the loved. You will never mistake-proof your life, so remember to forgive yourself and live in the victory Christ purchased for you. He loves you to the extent that He laid down his life for you. Yes, you. You are precious in His sight. Try to see yourself the way He sees you. Then, as we receive His gift, let us also extend that gift to others.
Forgive as you have been forgiven,
If you have never made Jesus the Lord of your life and desire to, pray this: Dear God, I believe that Jesus is your Son, that He died on the cross for me and was resurrected for my redemption. I choose to make Jesus the Lord of my life. I thank you for forgiving me and for filling me with Your Holy Spirit. I thank You that I am Your child, that You are my Father, and that You have great things planned for me. Amen.