We hear a lot about forgiveness. There are many books, articles, and quotes about what forgiveness is or isn’t. I’m about to add my understanding of it to the big pile. Some of the ideas out there about it are completely false, and I’d like to address some of those.
What Forgiveness Is
- Forgiveness is an outpouring of my Father’s forgiveness for me.
True Forgiveness happens only when you realize and accept God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy for yourself. You cannot forgive if you haven’t experienced His forgiveness. If the only reason you are forgiving someone is because “God won’t forgive me if I don’t”, then it’s not forgiveness. It’s selfishness.
- Forgiveness is pleading to God for mercy for myself and the person who hurt me.
When Jesus forgave you as He hung on the cross, He asked God to have mercy on you. When you realize how merciful God has been to you, you will want to extend His mercy to others.
- Forgiveness is willingly paying the consequences for the sin of the person who hurt me.
You need to accept responsibility for your reaction to the pain the person caused you. Face it head on. You are “paying” for it already – why not do so cheerfully and deliberately? This is where the power that person had over you is lost. When you choose to deal with the lies that developed because of the pain you experienced, you are “paying cheerfully” for what was done to you.
- Forgiveness is a choice that only I can make.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Choosing to forgive is choosing life. Choosing bitterness is choosing death.
What Forgiveness is Not
- Forgiveness is not forgetting.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before – Forgive and Forget. The Bible never tells you to forgive and forget. It does say that God forgets your sins when you confess them. I’m not sure that forgetting is even possible in every situation. What about the person who lives as a paralytic because of drunk driver? He’s faced with his handicap every day. What about a girl who was raped? Or a family who lost a child because of a medical malpractice?
- Forgiveness is not a one-time deal.
When Jesus answered Peter’s question about how often to forgive his brother, Jesus’ implied reply was “every time.” I don’t think Jesus was talking about 490 different incidents. Instead, He was saying that every time you are reminded of an incident, forgive right away. It doesn’t matter whether that is ten times a day, or one hundred times a day. Forgive.
- Forgiveness is not Trust.
Forgiveness is something you freely give to the person who hurt you, while trust is earned.
- Forgiveness is not possible without Jesus.
The world talks about forgiveness, but in reality it is a counterfeit for the real thing. You cannot truly forgive if you haven’t met Jesus. Without Him, it’s completely impossible.
If you are bound by bitterness, there is a way out! You don’t have to live as a victim any longer!
The truth is Jesus loves you. He cares about you. His arms are open for you today just as they were when He was hanging on the cross, asking His Father to forgive you! He wants to redeem every nook and cranny of your life. He’s been waiting for you for years!
You don’t have to feel fuzzy feelings toward the person who hurt you to forgive. If you are having trouble even “wanting” to forgive, ask God to give you the “want to.” Believe me, He will!
Then talk to Jesus.
“Jesus, today I choose to forgive (name) for the pain he/she caused me when he/she (what they did to you). I choose to forgive him/her and release him/her. I don’t want to hold this against him/her any longer. Please have mercy on him/her! I will pay for his/her sin. Will you forgive me, Jesus, for being so focused on myself and bitter toward him/her?”
Freedom and Life is yours when you choose to forgive. And to refuse is Eternal Death. Refusing to forgive affects those around you too. It’s that serious.