Forgiveness is an important biblical concept in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, we’re reminded of God’s merciful nature in the Book of Micah.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. —Micah 7:18 KJV
God showed His love for mankind by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. It’s the ultimate proof that He’s a forgiving God, and we’re reminded in Ephesians that we should follow His example.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:32 KJV
Sometimes we forget that forgiveness is a choice, not just a vague feeling that fades in and out. Furthermore, as Christians, we’re compelled by God to make that choice and give others the same gift that He gives to us so freely.
Why is it so hard to forgive others, especially when we’re secure in the knowledge that God forgives our sins? Often it’s a matter of pride. We feel that if we forgive someone who has wronged us, that person gets away with something, and human nature makes that hard to accept. We’d do well to let go of that pride and remember Hannah’s words in 1 Samuel.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. —1 Samuel 2:3 KJV
We can choose to let go of our pride and forgive others sincerely. When we make that choice, we reap two big rewards. First, we’re doing something that we’re repeatedly admonished to do in God’s Word. We even find it in the prayer taught by Jesus Himself.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. —Matthew 6:14 KJV
The feeling of forgiveness isn’t complete until you’ve made the conscious choice to let go of your grudge, too. You might think you’ve forgiven someone, but unless you’ve willingly decided to do so, the old anger and resentment will bubble up again and again. When you’ve chosen forgiveness, you automatically cancel out those emotions with an internal reminder that you’ve let the situation go and it doesn’t have power over you anymore. The second reward is the sense of peace this brings.
As a Christian, you should make the forgiveness choice because it’s what God wants you to do, but it’s also in your own best interest. When you just pay lip service to forgiveness and the feeling isn’t genuine, you carry a lot of emotional baggage. Holding grudges wastes time and energy. Whenever you dwell on your anger at someone, you’re using up precious mental energy that could be devoted to more productive thoughts. Resentment chews up time and pulls you down into a mire of negativity.
You can choose to free yourself from the mire simply by giving others the gift of genuine forgiveness. When it moves from a nagging feeling of something you should do to a sincere choice, you’ll feel the weight lift from your shoulders.
You can’t force another person to repent, no matter how badly he or she has wronged you. That person might never acknowledge your pain, let alone apologize. Yes, that hurts, but the pain doesn’t have to be a chronic cancer eating away at your heart. Choose to release the pain and you’ll understand why God urges us to be forgiving in so many places throughout the Bible. Not only does He want us to be merciful to others, but also to have the best for ourselves. We can’t truly enjoy life when we carry a heavy burden of baggage. Forgiveness significantly lightens that load.