We have all been wronged, deeply, by a friend or a family member or a boss or a coworker or a spouse. Those scars run deep, and the memories sometimes never fade. The pain can still eat at our hearts. Last week we explored the forgiveness that God grants us, how he wipes out our sins and guilt. We get a clean slate. But genuine forgiveness is a two-edged sword, one that cuts both ways.
If God wipes out our sins, we need to wipe out those of others. I know how hard this is, I’m struggling with anger and bitterness right now, and perhaps this is written more to myself than others. But I suspect, from some Facebook comments to the last post, that others need to think about this as much as I do. So, let’s examine some facets of forgiving others.
First, forgiveness is a whole, we can’t take just the part that benefits us, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). That’s pretty strong, but it reflects God’s heart. He wants our best.
He wants us to be reconciled whenever we can (Romans 12:18), and partly for our own emotional and spiritual health. A refusal to forgive hurts us far more than anyone else. Bitterness grows in us, and they go through life in ignorant bliss.
Second, we must acknowledge sins. Let’s not pretend they didn’t happen—they did. Let’s not try to forget them—we don’t forget serious wounds. We go to the person, in gentleness and truth (Matthew 18:15-17), and try to work it out. And if they won’t ask for forgiveness? Relationally, the damage continues. That doesn’t mean we need to trust them again, until they show they can be.
But we can offer forgiveness for our sake. Then when the memories surely whisper or shout to us, we can answer, “No, that’s over and done. I’ve forgiven them, even if they didn’t ask for it.” Honestly, the more we do that, the more it becomes a habit for us. When we forgive, we give up vengeance, getting back. But we soften our attitude when we move beyond the pain.
Difficult? Absolutely. But it’s godly. And it makes a bad situation a little bit better.
Kick Starting the Application
Think back to a deep wound you received that did get resolved. What helped it work out for good? What make it more difficult? Think back to a deep wound that’s not been resolved, one that still nibbles at your soul. What can you do this week to start the process of giving forgiveness? What most makes you not want to do that? Are you willing to ask God to change your heart?