I recently watched a documentary about the life of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She described a difficult situation in her life when she faced a guard who had been cruel to her and her sister while they were in a Nazi concentration camp. Years later, after the war ended, that same prison guard came to her and asked for her forgiveness. She felt completely unable to forgive him for the horrible things he had done to her and her sister. But after praying, she felt God give her the grace to forgive him.
Most of us will never be harmed in the horrific way Corrie ten Boom was, but we can grow from the way she learned to forgive. Every relationship, including marriage, has the potential for one person to hurt another, either intentionally or not. When that happens, we must be prepared to forgive and work to reconcile the relationship. That’s because forgiveness benefits our lives in the following ways.
1. Forgiveness Humbles Us
Forgiveness has the potential to cultivate humility in our lives. When we are hurt, we initially swell with anger, thinking, “How dare they do this to us?” But as we work to forgive them, remembering how God, through Christ, has forgiven us, we are humbled.
We also have been the offending party at times. As the Lord’s prayer reminds us, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). As we consider our offenses against God and others, we are humbled that we have often sought forgiveness and received it. This humility is exactly what allows us to forgive others when they hurt us. Until we realize our own need for forgiveness, we will find it hard to forgive others when they sin against us.
2. Forgiveness Brings Restoration
Forgiveness can be a healing balm on valuable relationships that could be lost. Many people respond to injury by moving away from the people who’ve wounded them, and certainly there are times when this is the wise and proper response. But there also times in life when we have been hurt and the best course is for us to reconcile the damaged relationship. We don’t ignore the hurt caused, or magically sweep it under the rug. Instead, we remember the value of the relationship to us. We ask God for the help to forgive from the heart and restore what has been broken.
Every person will have to decide for themselves what they can and cannot forgive. But many may find that a close relationship that seems irreparable can blossom once again into a sweet blessing when we forgive.
3. Forgiveness Demonstrates Love
Lastly, forgiveness is the ultimate display of our love for another person. While the circumstances that call for forgiveness are never pleasant, it does give us a tangible way to show someone how much we care for them. Once we clearly communicate how someone’s actions have hurt us, we then are able to tell them we have chosen to forgive them, to put away their sin. Sometimes it can even be powerful to say something like, “In the same way God has forgiven me, He has given me the grace to love and forgive you.”
Every marriage may go through a season where there is a need for deep forgiveness. As we grow in Christian maturity, we should see these as times when our humility, love and graciousness can shine brightest. Of course, we hope to not be in these circumstances in the first place, but we should remember that, with God’s help, we can learn much through them.
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