"FINDING FREEDOM IN FORGIVENESS"
Many of us have experienced pain so great as the result of another person’s actions that forgiveness is not an option. Or is it?
This post is not intended to minimize that pain – any hurt, mistreatment, abuse, loss, betrayal, or any of the myriads of horrific experiences you may have had is respectfully acknowledged. If you are deeply affected by the hurt inflicted by another person, I urge you to seek professional help.
It is possible that the offender is no longer alive and you may not have thought about forgiveness or it’s not feasible.
Perhaps the person you need to forgive may be yourself.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Within the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to pray, He says:
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12)
Ouch! As we have forgiven?
How are we to forgive that which seems unforgivable?
Jesus showed us. On His worst possible day, the day He was crucified, Jesus chose to forgive His enemies who were crucifying Him…in the midst of His pain.
Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals in its day with the specific intention of humiliating and shaming them.
Jesus was not a criminal; He was innocent. Think about that!
It may be impossible for us to fully comprehend the humiliation that Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross; naked, bruised, bloodied, and beaten beyond recognition in the cruelest and most degrading form of punishment ever while Heaven looked away! No movie, no matter how graphic, may ever truly capture the intensity of that punishment yet in the midst of that suffering, Jesus did the unthinkable. He forgave!
We may be tempted to say that Jesus was God and therefore had the capacity to forgive but we also know that He came to earth as man to model what it means to be a Christian living in a sinful world. I believe that we are most like Jesus when are forgiving someone.
Forgiving someone is not easy or simple but it is necessary. Scripture tells us so:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
Renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian, Lewis B. Smedes said it this way: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
How do we forgive?
First, we pray for those who have hurt us – Multiple times in Scripture we are instructed to pray for those who have offended us. See for instance Luke 6:28, & Matthew 5:43. These instructions were given in a culture that believed and practised “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” so it is not an unreasonable standard for us today.
Even if we don’t feel like forgiving the other person, we must do so. As you do, here’s what you notice – the more you keep praying for the people who have hurt you; the less judgmental are your prayers and then you notice that your heart begins to soften. In short, your prayers for others may not change them but they definitely change you.
Secondly, we forgive as we have been forgiven. Colossians 3:13 says that we ought to make allowances for each other’s faults. None of us is perfect meaning, we all make mistakes and require the forgiveness of others.
You may have grounds to be upset and even legal grounds for retribution but you always have Biblical grounds for forgiveness.
If you choose to forgive, it will not change the past but it can change the future.
We are one month away from Christmas (I know!), a time when families get together to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. I cannot help but think that someone reading this post may have a family member whom they need to forgive. After all, family is often the ones who hurt us the most deeply.
Would you be willing to ask God to guide you in that direction?
Forgiveness does not necessarily reinstate a relationship to its former status; it may not even be the wise thing to do. Speak to a trusted friend and seek professional help about that aspect but the forgiveness can take place in your heart right now.
The story behind Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” may bring tears to your eyes; you may already know this story but allow it to inspire you afresh as you think about who God is asking you to forgive today.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org