When someone hurts or betrays us, it is hard to forgive. Even though we accept the apology, it takes time to regain trust. There are Christians who are able to forgive and forget, but how do you get to that point? This takes prayer and understanding of God’s forgiveness towards us.
What Is Forgiveness?
God forgives us the moment we ask for forgiveness with a repentant heart. His forgiveness is complete; God forgets on purpose.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. —Psalms 103:12, KJV
As we strive to be a true mirror of God’s love, we have to ask, “Do we forgive others as God forgives us?”
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. —Luke 11:4 , KJV
Often people say, “I forgive, but I don’t forget.” This is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is the purposeful act of excusing a mistake or offense and to stop assigning blame. If we choose not to forget, the memory of the offense will create a wall between ourselves and the other person or persons. We will not have peace and will be unable to love as God loves us.
How can we show love and kindness towards a person if we are still angry? The anger or hurt we feel will affect how we speak and act when we are around those we do not forgive.
How to Practice Real Forgiveness
Genesis contains the story of Joseph, a son of Isaac. Isaac loved Joseph and Joseph’s brothers were jealous. They sold Joseph into slavery exposing Joseph to a life of hardship. Joseph was patient and trusted God. He learned to depend on God, opening his heart to God’s will. Joseph’s example of true forgiveness encourages us to lean on God for the ability to forgive.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. —Gen esis 50:15-21, KJV
You can learn to forgive as Joseph did. This may take practice and remembering God’s word. We want to forgive others as God has forgiven us. It seems like a simple thing, but often when we interact with the person we have forgiven, we remember what they did to us. It is important to turn away your spiritual eye to overlook and not relive the hurt or anger.
God asks us to bring every thought under submission of His will. When you are tempted to remember, defeat the thought instantly by reminding yourself you have forgiven the person. As you bring the desire to relive the blame into submission, real forgiveness will take place. Doing this is an act of will and patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. —James 1:4, KJV
The root of unforgiveness lies in our pride. Each time a thought of anger creep into your memory, remember God asks us to bring every thought under His Lordship. As followers of Jesus, we have an example of perfect forgiveness always before us. As you mature in Christ, you will find that what used to offend you no longer does.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; —2 Corinthians 10:5, KJV