Imagine you owe millions of dollars, and it’s time to pay up. Unfortunately, you barely have two pennies to rub together. You ask the lender for more time to pay off the debt, but more time is not what you’re given. Instead, your debt is completely erased. Instead of owing millions, you owe zero. What an incredible feeling of relief!
A few hours later, you run into an old friend who owes you a couple hundred dollars. “Hey, pay up!” you demand. When he replies, “Soon, soon,” you fly off the handle. Swinging punches, you rage, “I’m taking you to court!”
When your lender hears about your actions, he reverses his original decision. If you won’t forgive your friend’s small debt, you’ll also have to be responsible for the entirety of your own massive debt. In fact, because you haven’t paid it, he’s having you carted off to jail until you repay every last cent.
Jesus told a similar story to this in Matthew 18. Commonly known as the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, this lesson teaches us that because God has forgiven us for all of our transgressions, our response should be forgiveness toward the people who wrong us.
Has an unforgiving spirit caused a rift in your relationships? It’s not too late to extend forgiveness and rebuild your friendship. During this Easter season, as we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice that covers our sin, make it your goal to resurrect an old friendship through the power of forgiveness.
Here are three tips that can help as you extend forgiveness and renew a friendship.
Seek Help if Needed
Sometimes a listening ear can help you work through your emotions and guide you to a place where you’re ready to forgive. Bottling up your feelings can lead to stewing about how you’ve been wronged, which can just make you feel even angrier. But lashing out at the person who hurt you can make the divide between you greater. A third party, on the other hand, can listen empathetically, rebuke gently and provide wise counsel.
You want someone who will truly help you work through your feelings and not just feed all of your negative emotions. A friend or a minister can be good resources, but don’t hesitate to turn to a professional therapist if you’re having trouble working through your feelings. There’s no shame in seeking help from someone who is trained to give it.
Apologize for Your Part
Wrongdoing isn’t always a one-way street. It’s possible that you and your former friend shared responsibility for the way things went down. If you hurt your friend, be humble enough to acknowledge your wrongdoing, apologize for the pain you caused and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes this act of humility can open up the doors for forgiveness and communication that goes both ways.
Remember What You Can Control
In an ideal situation, you’ll extend forgiveness, your old friend will respond with humility and gratitude and you’ll be fast friends once again. But as we all know, life doesn’t always pan out like our ideals. It’s entirely possible that your offer of mercy will be rejected.
It’s hard to let go of your hurt, only to feel that it was thrown back in your face. Fortunately, extending forgiveness holds more benefits for you than just the renewing of a relationship. Even if you can never repair this friendship, it’s worth the effort to forgive the offender.
Forgiveness is freeing. When you forgive, you no longer have to carry around the hurt and bitterness that someone else’s poor choices brought into your life. You can’t force anyone to accept your forgiveness, but you do have the power to set yourself free from the grip in which their actions have held you.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger… be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:31-32
Easter reminds us of the grace that God has shown us through Jesus. In light of his mercy, to whom will you offer forgiveness during this season of renewal?