God created us as emotional beings and as such, we feel both joy and pain. When someone hurts us, especially someone close to us like a friend or family member, forgiving the wrongdoing and moving on to truly forget it is often a difficult thing. As Christians, we are charged by God to forgive those who trespass against us and above all, to love one another. This is easier said than done, but with God’s grace, it’s possible to get there.
What Does it Mean to Forgive?
It is natural to feel anger, pain and betrayal when someone hurts us. Our first instinct may be to lash out at the person who wrongs us, to seek revenge, or build a wall between us by harboring a bitter grudge. This is clearly not what God wants or expects us to do.
Jesus commands, “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.” —Luke 6:36-37.
As difficult as it may be, we need to extend non-judgmental mercy to someone that hurts us. Otherwise, we’ll hold ourselves captive to the anger and bitterness. Offering forgiveness instead of condemnation will free us from the weight that resentment places on our spirit.
According to Merriam-Webster, “forgive” means “to give up resentment of or claim to requital for” and “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong): to stop blaming (someone).”
So, forgiving is an action. It’s a conscious choice we must make to stop feeling angry and resentful and stop placing blame or seeking justice for an injustice. In other words, we need to let go of our negative feelings and seek a mental and emotional path toward peace.
How Do We Forgive?
Open and honest communication is the key to resolving all sorts of grievances. Extending Godly forgiveness means you are wiping the slate clean with your wrongdoer and will cease being angry and resentful by no longer remembering their transgression against you.
The first important step is to open yourself up in prayer to God. Pray for His grace and wisdom to give you the strength you need to forgive and move on. Also pray for the other person’s heart to receive your forgiveness so the two of you can move forward and begin anew.
Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross to free us from the bondage of sin and save us from death, so that we may have Eternal life.
“This is the covenant that I will make with them: ‘After those days,’ says the Lord, ‘I will put my laws on their heart, I will also write them on their mind;’” then he says, I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.” —Hebrews 10:16-17.
In following Christ’s example, if we truly forgive, then we will also forget the incident ever happened. In many cases, forgetting is the hardest part and when a wound is deep, it can take a while to erase it from your heart and mind. In essence, forgiveness may be a very slow process.
Even as God grants us His long suffering patience and love, we must do the same.
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.” —Matthew 18:21-22
So, our forgiveness should be boundless. We need to take the first step by offering it, and the particular circumstance will dictate the words we use. Next, we need to let go and let God work within us to heal and transform our heart. Finally, we need to pray for the person that wronged us and remember that God loves him, too. If we seek to see that person through God’s eyes, then we are truly on the road to inner peace.
Walking in God’s Grace
God rewards obedience to His Word and bestows His favor upon the righteous. His message on forgiveness is clear: We need to forgive in order to be forgiven.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” —Matthew 6:14-15
The beauty of all of God’s commandments is that keeping them is for our own good. We only suffer more by refusing to forgive. Forgiving someone ultimately frees us from the anguish that holding a grudge brings. Most importantly, though, if we obey God and forgive our brother, then He forgives our sin; and the power in this promise makes taking the hard road the easiest option.