Forgiveness is a word that either makes us smile or cringe.
And our reaction is usually based on what side of the forgiveness we are on.
If we are the ones receiving forgiveness, we feel grateful and relieved that we’ve been extended grace.
However, when we are the ones having to forgive, it can be a little more difficult.
Years ago I began working with someone who was very offensive to me. She was difficult to work with, did not respect me as the leader of the organization, which caused many heated discussions that would end in frustration for both of us.
I began to see offense and bitterness creep into my heart.
Just the mention of her name caused an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded going to work and having to deal with her each week.
Although I knew something needed to be done, I felt like it was futile to keep trying to resolve our issues.
Until God stepped in.
As I began to seek Him on the matter, I began to realize that I couldn’t control her, but I could control my actions and my responses.
When we seek God in the hard places, He gives us a fresh perspective.
My perspective began to change…. What if I hadn’t been the best leader? What if there was something that I did to cause her to feel threatened by me or unappreciated by me? Perhaps….just maybe….I had a part to play in this.
I was also reminded of the need for forgiveness. No matter what she had done to me or said about me, I was called to forgive her.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT
Jesus calls us to get rid of bitterness, anger, slander and instead be kind and forgiving to others. He doesn’t leave out those who are not kind to us. In fact he doesn’t give a list of those we are supposed to forgive…because it includes everyone.
The forgiveness we extend may not even be for the benefit of the other person. In fact, they may not be seeking forgiveness. This person most definitely wasn’t.
When we forgive, it sets us free. The bondage of bitterness and offense is released off of our lives. Click To Tweet
The next time we met we had a discussion and I began with admitting that I may not have been the best leader. That God was still teaching me how to effectively operate in that role.
I won’t lie and say that we became the best of friends after that. But we did have a mutual respect for one another. The tension was broken.
That’s what forgiveness does. It releases any offense and causes us to rest. So what does the Bible say about forgiveness? Let’s have a look….
What else does the Bible say about Forgiveness?
Offense can hinder our prayers
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Mark 11:22-25 NLT
I love how Jesus encourages us in our faith and prayer life and then stops us in our tracks with…”But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Many times we expect the blessings of God without the hard stuff. We want Him to pour out the blessing, we want to move the mountains with our faith, but we refuse to forgive the person who hurt us or a loved one.
Jesus tells us when we come to God in prayer (and we can pray for anything) to first forgive ANYONE we are holding a grudge against.
Who is your anyone? Is there someone that comes to mind as you read this verse?
There are many times I will ask God to search my heart and show me if there is anyone I haven’t forgiven. I’ve been surprised at the names that come to mind….even people I thought I forgave. And when they come to mind, I just release them again.
We must continually forgive
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22 NLT
I can totally relate to Peter. I can get tired of forgiving someone who repeatedly offends me.
But I also love Jesus’ response.
In essence He’s saying, “Keep on forgiving, Peter. There’s no set limit on forgiveness.”
When we continually forgive, even the same offender, it keeps our hearts right.
Offense and bitterness can permeate every part of our being, including our relationships.
We are called to forgive.
This doesn’t mean; however, that we cannot set healthy boundaries.
When someone repeatedly violates us, we aren’t called to continually endure it. We can physically and emotionally set boundaries to protect ourselves. The key here is to keep our spirit right by forgiving the offense.
We’ve been forgiven
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NLT
When we remember how much we have been forgiven, it becomes easier to forgive others. We’ve all messed up and fallen short of God’s perfect standards. (Romans 3:23)
But He extended grace and forgiveness.
In return, He calls us to do the same for others. The Bible says this…
God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold; nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Psalm 103:9-14 MSG
This scripture is such a comfort to me. Fully knowing our faults and weaknesses, He still forgives us. This scripture is a beautiful model of how we can treat others who have hurt us.
Refuse to pay them back for what they’ve done. (Romans 12:19)
Recognize that they are human. Hurting people hurt people. When I come across someone who is mean or hurts me, I’ve begun questioning what has happened to them. It’s usually not something I’ve done, but something they’ve gone through. Recognizing this helps me to have compassion on the person.
Extend grace for their faults.
Friend, are you holding onto an offense? Has bitterness setup a permanent residence in your heart? Today is a perfect day to forgive. When you know how much you’ve been forgiven, it’s easier to let that offense go. Forgiveness doesn’t minimize the hurt you’ve experienced, but it does open up the door to your healing. Here’s a prayer I’ve shared on forgiveness to help you begin your journey of forgiveness today.
Can I pray with you today?
Father, you see every hurt we’ve experienced. You are not blind to the types of hurts we face. You were betrayed, rejected and killed by those You came to save. Lord, remind us of the price You paid for forgiveness. Show us now who we need to forgive. Give us the grace and the courage to forgive those who have hurt us. Today I pray that each one of us will open our hearts and release these people. We give them over to you and ask you to heal our hearts and theirs. In Jesus’ name, Amen!