Forgiving each other is a commandment we must obey just as much as any other commandment. And just like every commandment, it is for our own good.
Sure, there may be some benefit to those that we forgive, but, then again, there may not be. The person that we forgive may never think that they have done us wrong, or may not care. Take Stephen for example; he was the first chrisitan martyr, stoned by men who thought themselves to be doing the will of God. Yet he still forgave them. We also must forgive those who sin against us, even if they may never repent. Why must we forgive? Because God has forgiven us.
God has forgiven us a great debt, and continues to offer forgiveness for all our failures. Sometimes we tend to forget this. If we rightly understand the vast amount of guilt that we ourselves have had before God and how He has graciously forgiven us, it will be easy for us to forgive. It is when we forget this, and somehow begin to think that the wrong done to us is greater than the wrong we have done to God, that we harbor unforgiveness. The wrong we have done to God is vastly greater than the wrong any human could have ever done to us, no matter what it may be.
Forgiveness towards others is something that happens inside of you. You don’t need the other person to be around. It has to do with your heart. In Matthew 18, Jeus tells us that we must forgive in our heart. Forgiving others is simply a change in the attitude of your heart.
In Mark 11, Jesus said that when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against anyone. The word ‘ought’ basically means to hold something against someone. If you are praying, and you find that in your heart you are holding something against someone, you need to forgive them. And you can do it right away. It isn’t a feeling that you have to somehow produce. It’s simply a choice to release that person from the resentment and bitterness that you hold against them in your heart. Your feelings may not follow your choice instantly, but if you are honest with yourself and with God, then your feelings will soon follow suit.
Recently I read an article that was critizing a particular ministry in the way that it counseled girls into finding healing from abuse. The article critized the way that the ministry focused so much on helping the girls to forgive those who hurt them. The article said that the ministry ‘required’ the girls to forgive in order for them to recieve the help that they needed.
Now, it may sound kind of harsh to those that have suffered abuse, but according to the bible we are ‘required’, as believers, to forgive. And we certianly can’t expect the Healer to heal our broken heart and spirit unless we cooperate with His instructions. Just as it feels good to scratch a rash on our body, but it only makes it worse, so harboring unforgiveness gives us some pleasure, but only makes life more miserable on us, and makes the healing process impossible.
When we harbor unforgiveness it means that we desire revenge. We want the other person to be hurt. We get pleasure out of seeing the other person fall into misfortune. But it is not our place to desire these things. We are to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. God says that vengence is His. What he really wants is for others to repent and be saved (vengeance carried out on Jesus), but if they don’t, then payday will eventually come (vengeance carried out on them). Either way, it is not our place, and either way, vengeance will come, no matter how bad they have treated us.
When we forgive, we desire grace. We desire the person to give up their ways and turn to God, to receive forgiveness themselves, and eternal life.
Don’t let unforgiveness destroy your life and your soul. Choose to forgive today. Forgiving will first start the healing process for you and also will demonstrate the glourious grace of our Lord and Savior towards those that have hurt us. When you forgive, you will find that the great Healer will heal all of your deep wounds and bring you into a peaceful place. You will escape the dark caverns of bitterness and resentment, and you will come in to green pastures of joy and abundant life.