Forgiveness is one of the most powerful experiences of God’s grace and healing, and opens the door to greater intimacy with Him and others. From your "sit place with Abba God" let us consider your beliefs about forgiveness, why you need to forgive, who you need to forgive, and how.
The Truth about Forgiveness
As always, you must approach forgiveness from the foundation of truth. What does God’s word tell us about forgiveness? First, you have been forgiven by God. All have sinned, Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, or as John says, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John1:8, NKJV). Remember, God is holy and just, He cannot look on our sin without judgment. But because of His great love, God provided a way to satisfy His own justice: He sent to earth His Son, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24, NKJV).
I pray you will give much thought to this precious truth: your forgiveness is only possible because of Christ's shed blood for you. God has cleansed, washed, and sanctified you by the blood of Jesus, opening the way for you to enter into fellowship with God. As you daily embrace His forgiveness by the blood of the Lamb, you will begin to find healing for your heart and also begin the journey to forgiving others.
How does your forgiveness tie in to forgiving those who have wounded you?
Again, we must turn to Scripture for truth. Paul writes in Colossians, Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Col 3:13, NIV). Or this passage from Ephesians, Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19, NIV).
Why is Forgiveness So Difficult?
The scriptural requirement is plain—why then is forgiveness often so difficult?
The answer is two-fold. First, because you and I believe that the wrong deserves punishment; we cannot just let this person “off the hook.” Forgiving the person seems to be letting him or her off scot-free. He doesn’t deserve to get away with that! She doesn’t deserve to get off so easily! In other words, we have set ourselves up as their judge. Do not misunderstand me—the wrongs some of us experienced have been very grievous indeed, and we have suffered deeply as a result. But Scripture does not say there is a sliding scale of forgiveness. We are called to forgive everyone who has harmed us. When we hang on to the sense of grievance we feel, it isn’t long before the resentment turns into bitterness. Scripture is also clear about what happens to us when bitterness takes hold in our lives. The writer of Hebrews says, See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15, NIV). At the root of bitterness is a longing for revenge. Scripture responds to this human impulse as well: Beloved, do not avenge yourselves…for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord’…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans12:19, NKJV).
Be reminded that grace flows more freely in our lives when we humble ourselves. Forgiving requires such a humbling. You must lay aside your demand for punishment and submit to God’s word to forgive. Releasing that person who has harmed you will bring you release. And it also will release a flow of God’s grace in your life you have not yet experienced. Failure to do so, to harbor bitterness instead, will impede God’s grace and imprison you. That’s why Scripture says, Those who are kind benefit themselves (Proverbs 11:17a, NIV).
Another reason why forgiveness is often difficult is that forgiveness involves facing the hurt you have experienced. Denying or repressing the hurt is not the same thing as forgiveness, nor is pretending that what happened is “no big deal.” Usually these hurts have only gone underground where they are still causing pain and anger and even self-pity. These feelings are often expressed in hurtful behaviors towards others. So true forgiveness means facing the often painful reality of what was done to you—or perhaps what you did to another. God gives grace for this part of the process as well.
Forgiveness is a choice. When you choose to forgive, your decision releases the grace of God to flow in that situation. I encourage you, in your "sit place with God," to humble yourself before God, acknowledge those people you need to forgive, and receive His grace, attaching your will to forgive them.
You may also need to forgive yourself. God does not want you to be “on the hook” either. In your sit place with Abba God, tell him what you need to be forgiven for, and you will receive His gracious forgiveness.
I cannot pass on here without saying that the trail of our unforgiveness often leads to God Himself. Though many of us would not admit this, because we do love God, deep in our hearts we often hold Him responsible for what happened to us—for allowing that hurtful or even evil thing to occur, to blight our lives. Where were you, God? There is not room enough here, of course, to take on the subject of why God allows suffering, and there are no easy answers. You may need to “forgive” God. Tell Him that right now you do not understand why He let that happen to you, but you forgive Him for what seems like a terrible injustice. Acknowledge that you cannot fully understand His purposes, but what happened hurt you deeply. Tell Him that you want to lay down your anger towards Him and receive His love.
A Practical Way to Walk Out Forgiveness
In your journal, write down:
- Whom do I need to forgive?
- Do I need to include myself?
- What do I need to forgive them or myself for?
Then meet with Jesus at the cross, and with the gift of His grace, choose to forgive anyone who has hurt you and you know you have not forgiven. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any unforgiveness you may be harboring unconsciously.
Meet with Jesus and the person who has hurt you at the foot of the cross. With God's grace, offer forgiveness to that person. Therefore, in the presence of Christ, say: “I forgive you, _________ (filling in the blank).”
The cross is also a grace place where you can go to seek forgiveness for what you have done. “Please forgive me for _________ (filling in the blank).”
It is essential to note here: forgiveness and trust are very separate issues. Where trust has been broken, it has to be restored to continue to do relationship with that individual. Therefore, you can forgive and still not choose to have relationship when trust has not been restored. You can also forgive, though the other may not acknowledge his or her wrong.
Finally, R. T. Kendall, in his book Total Forgiveness, says forgiveness is not complete until we can bless our “enemies.” So the last and most powerful step of your forgiveness journey is to ask God to bless the one who has wounded you. Great grace will be yours in return.
Dr. Roselene Coblentz