Forgiveness…it is easy to tell someone to forgive or even at times think we are capable of forgiving, but when the time comes to forgive those who have trespassed us or to love our enemies, it can be a real heart check.
The famous C.S. Lewis said this about forgiveness…
“We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it.”
Forgiveness is not an easy action.
It requires death to self and a willingness to go through the process of letting go of anger, offense, and bitterness. In our world, we are meant to believe that if we hold on to those things it will give us some type of satisfaction and justice in our own hearts and minds. Or that this little anger or offense isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t.
We become in bondage to it. We become slaves to it and soon it becomes who we are.
I recognize that we all have experienced genuine hurt from imperfect people and it would be easy to hold on to the anger, bitterness, and offense that was caused toward us. However, God is a good Father who loves His sons and daughters who gave us The Holy Spirit to give us the strength to forgive and to heal from our past hurts.
We think that if we withhold forgiveness, the person who may have hurt us, offended us, forgotten us, and so on, will experience or understand the same hurt they gave us.
But God does not want us to stay in this place. He desires to heal us and to be fully healed from the pains this broken world has caused.
"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
I think it is safe to say we can think of a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or maybe even the church, that has caused us this pain.
I know from my own personal life, I have, but what I do know is that there have been years in my life I look back on and wish I had chosen the path to forgiveness.
I had gotten so depressed and angry. Angry at the person for not recognizing the pain they had caused. I would be so angry at God, but He reminded me also of Jesus, crying out to His Abba Father, asking for His enemies to be forgiven on the cross.
It was when I finally chose to surrender and truly forgive that God showed me the freedom I could have in Him.
It was in surrender that I could truly love my enemies.
God does not want us to withhold forgiveness because He is an insensitive God who does not see or comfort our pain. He shows us throughout scripture that He has called us higher, and to not give a foothold to our enemy.
“In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27
“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
We cannot even give a small ounce of our anger because it will become rooted. It will cause us more pain from the inside out and the enemy knows our weakness. He knows how it will affect us. But our God knows the power of His love and His forgiveness that sets the captives free.
It’s not only withholding forgiveness from others, but forgiving yourself as Christ has forgiven you.
We all have made mistakes we look back on and wish we could have done something different. I would not be honest writing this if I look back on my years of ministry and life wishing I did some things differently. However, God is so gracious when He forgives us. He does not withhold it from us. He gives it to us daily.
When we reflect on our lives and see how good God has been to us, we should be the first to extend and give that forgiveness to others.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it necessary? Yes, because in our obedience to our Lord there is freedom.
It’s not just obedience but it is also love.
Our love for God should motivate us. Our love for His church should motivate us. Our love for the lost and broken should motivate us.
It did for Jesus. His mission was to fulfill the Father's will to be the atonement for God's creation because He loved God and loved us. He still loves us. He chose people to be his closest friends and all had failed him.
And we know one had given him up for ransom.
On that cross Jesus cried out to Abba Father, “FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.”
Jesus hung on that cross to forgive us and reconcile our relationship so we could be with Him. So we now can call upon our Father daily.
This comes to mind as well, “I can forgive but I can’t forget.”
I believe God can heal all wounds and clear past hurts when we take the steps to forgive. Yet, I know there are times when we take the steps to forgive, there are times we might be reminded and we have to call upon the Lord to help us.
Jesus took on all of our pain and sins, but the marks on his body are still there. It shows us that He too sees our pain and that His wounds bring us healing and hope.
When we start seeing people and situations through the eyes of Jesus, everything changes.
We are no longer bound by what has happened to us, but we are free and fully loved. But we need to know the love of the Father for us to be able to receive His forgiveness and be able to forgive others. It is all about His love. It is love that motivated Him to call us His sons and daughters. It is by His love we can now forgive so freely. It is a hard process, but our God is able even when we cannot. He is there waiting for us to say yes and take the first step and He will guide us and lead us in His love.
Believers, we have been given this gift to forgive others as Jesus has forgiven us.
We are given this opportunity to surrender it all at the feet of Jesus so that we can fully be free.
My challenge for you is this: for the people or situations that came up while reading this, ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart if there is still unforgiveness or any root of bitterness.
Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and see if there is anything that needs to be uprooted. (Psalm 139:23-24) The Lord is faithful to expose our hearts, but not to bring us shame. He exposes our hearts so we can be healed and be set free in Him.
~ Sarah Moon