Forgiveness is tough. Humans tend to believe that forgiving others is easy; that all it takes is an acceptance of an apology, but that isn't what forgiveness is. From a biblical perspective or not, forgiveness isn't what this world has cracked it up to be. Real, genuine forgiveness is forgetting that the person ever wronged you. I used to believe that if I forgave a person that it was immediate, that it was like a click of a button. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Forgiveness takes time (some obviously more than others) and it takes work. It takes serious effort to forgive someone. If you're still avoiding eye contact with someone after they've wronged you, or crossing the street in hopes of getting out of small talk, or still letting them take up your thoughts, you haven't forgiven them. You've simply just accepted their apology which is unfortunately what this society qualifies as forgiveness. Recently I came across a verse regarding this topic which is why I've chosen to make this post of the questions of forgiveness in hopes that it will open eyes as much as it opened my own.
1. What is forgiveness?Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV:
"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."
Now that I've told you everything that forgiveness is not, I should tell you what forgiveness is. Like I previously stated, this culture teaches us that forgiving someone can happen with the snap of a finger, and as much as I wish that was the case, it simply is not. Forgiveness is a process that everyone at some point in their life will go through, knowing that as humans we are fallen and wrong one another every day. Forgiveness is a decision that although this certain person has wronged you, that you choose to forgive them anyways. You must rid yourself of any negative thoughts concerning them, and choose to forgive rather than be right. There's a popular saying that goes "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" and that can't help but come to mind. Forgiveness is the acceptance that although you may be right and they still do not see it, or if they still believe that they haven't wronged you, or any other scenario, you must choose to rise above it. If you pray for the Lord to cleanse your thoughts and your heart, He will help you make the not so easy transition of forgiving someone who has wronged you. You will find a new calmness and weight lifted off your shoulders when you choose to forgive someone.
2. What if you don't believe this applies to you?
"The first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest."
Colossians 3:13 NIV:
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Chances are, if you're reading this, you have a feeling this might apply to you whether you want it to or not. This paragraph I will answer in an unbiased lens, so that all who might be reading this that are not Believers can still understand where I'm coming from. If you believe that this does not apply to you, then you're quite frankly in denial. I can guarantee that someone has wronged you that you have had trouble completely forgiving. And if I'm wrong, good for you! But there are a lot of mistakes and wrongdoings each day, so I'm guessing one has happened to you. But you think you're the exception. You think your case is different than the others. That if you only had time to tell me the entirety of the story that I would agree with you that there is no point in forgiving this person. But I can tell you right now, there is no case I can think of that doesn't deserve forgiveness. No matter how awful the deed was, you deserve to forgive the person. Because for starters, I bet you've wronged someone so badly that they believe they don't deserve to forgive you. But since you know yourself and know that you're more than your flaws, you know that you deserve forgiveness. Everyone deserves forgiveness. Although its hard at the start, forgiveness is easier in the long run. You don't have to worry about running in to that person at the super marker, or awkward conversations, or anything of the worries that come along with being on bad terms with somebody. But if you're just too hurt to show someone kindness that they deserve, forgive them for yourself. Do it for selfish reasons, but just do it. Holding a grudge against someone is like letting them live rent free in your head. You deserve to let go of the hurt that they've caused you and move on with only good energy in your life.
From a biblical perspective, no situation is too outrageous for forgiveness. Think of the absolute worst possible situation someone could do to somebody. Now multiply it by 100. That doesn't even come close to how much you and I are going to sin by the end of our lifetime. It is our job as Christians to forgive others because Christ chooses to forgives us every single day. Suppose God forgave everyone, but when it came to you He said that you had just done too much and that he couldn't forgive you. You'd be devastated, you'd feel cheated. Right? In that way, forgive everyone. Every time.
3. How often do I forgive?
Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV:
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”"
You forgive every time it is necessary. Simple as that. There is no limit to how many times God forgives us for our unending sin, so being made like him, there should be no different in the grace He shows us and the grace we show others.
4. Why is this such an important topic?
Luke 23: 34 NIV:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
There aren't many more important things to a Christian's life than forgiveness. Heck, without it, every last one of us would be spending an eternity in Hell, suffering like we deserve. But because God forgives us, we achieve eternal life through choosing Him. And by choosing Him, we are choosing to obey His laws and living to be more like Him every day. Forgiveness is such a key component to the Believer's lifestyle that we should be more than happy to forgive since we have been forgiven of the ultimate sin. In Jesus' last moments on earth, though he was dying and suffering on the cross, he made a point to ask the Father to forgive people on earth. Why did Jesus do that, knowing that His almighty Father forgives all without a second look? I believe it's because Jesus loved us so much, even the very ones that persecuted him, that he wanted for us to be forgiven. His last moments on earth were focused on God forgiving us. (If that doesn't make you feel the love of Christ for you, I don't know what will.) From the song How Deep The Father's Love For Us, the lyrics state,
"Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplishedHis dying breath has brought me lifeI know that it is finished"
This song is great at depicting that we are ashamed at how badly we sin each day, but that Jesus' death has brought us life. Knowing this, we should be eager to forgive others and show them the Love of Christ that we receive every day.
5. Why did I decide to make this post?
Just as everyone else, I have had my fair share of wrongdoings done to me. Tonight I was through the roof angry at someone and at the place where I thought I could never forgive this person for how many times they had wronged me. I was disgusted and fuming with anger, and I knew the only thing that could calm me down was to go to scripture. I opened my Bible and saw this and was absolutely blown away
I was choked by my own tears as I read through these verses in a way I had never read before. Just as I began to believe that I truly hated someone, God showed me what it was to love. I was opening my Bible in search of something to back me up on my sinful feelings, but God had plans to completely restore my heart. God tells us to love others not just because it is the right thing to do, but so that joy may be in us. Tears strolled down my face as I kept reading to hear that God not only urges us, but commands us to love one another. God states that although we do not choose Him, He chooses us. It was so encouraging to me to see that when you forgive others, joy will fill your heart. This verse was on friendship and it teaches that forgiving others, and old friends, is a necessity for a peaceful life. Although the people that I forgive may not choose to forgive me or to stop wronging me, I will choose to forgive them as God chooses to forgive me. God's scripture is so refreshing to read and tonight God worked in my heart in a way I didnt even know possible. Tonight I made the decision to forgive people I have been struggling with for the longest time, and although I know it will be hard, I also know that with God all things are possible. Glory to God for showing me just how sinful I am, and by guiding my hands to come to this scripture that showed me just how important loving others truly is.