You feel like someone just kicked you in the stomach. You can’t believe how easily they let the words slip from their mouth. And sadly, it wasn’t the first time. Oh, how would you like to pay them back. Wouldn’t it be okay, just this once?
No. God has a different route for you to take.
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
God wants us to seek after good, even if we’ve been wronged. Revenge is God’s alone. Here are seven lessons from Scripture on forgiveness.
1. We are to forgive as Jesus did.
Have you ever heard the line, “Do as I say, not as I do?”
Well, you never heard that from Jesus. He lived to please his Father. And he always chose the higher road. God tells us to forgive, just like Jesus did (Ephesians 4:32).
God explains the way we’re to forgive. It’s not that the other person deserves forgiveness. But we didn’t deserve to be forgiven either. God wants us to forgive just as we were forgiven.
2. Forgiveness is not a one time thing.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Peter thought he would put a number on how often we are to forgive. Maybe Peter thought he was being generous asking about forgiving seven times for the same offense. Peter was mistaken.
Forgiveness is not possible apart from God. When a person continually hurts you, it is only by God’s strength that you can forgive. And the more you know the person, the harder it can be. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us through the process.
3. Forgiveness should be bathed in prayer.
The first step to forgiveness should always be prayer. We need to pray our hearts will be in the right place. We need to pray for the person who wronged us. To forgive without prayer is a bad idea. Let God lead you. If we keep bringing our concerns to the Lord, he is the only one who can truly help us. We’re encouraged to acknowledge him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). Then he can lead us, making sure our words are drenched in grace.
To attempt forgiveness without prayer is like doing something blindfolded. When God instructs us to do something, he also empowers us to do it. We don’t have to try doing it by ourselves.
4. Forgiveness is not just for the other person.
It’s easy to think forgiveness is only for the one who has wronged us. But God wants us to be free as well. He knows without forgiving, that a seed of bitterness can grow in us.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)
If we refuse to forgive we can hold onto those wrongs, continually thinking about them. And before we know it, we are full of resentment. God tells us to “put away” bitterness as well as anger and wrath. It won’t be easy, but God is right there to help.
The enemy of our souls, who revels in discord and dissension, doesn’t want restoration. He likes division and chaos. When you choose to forgive, you are pleasing the Lord and displeasing God’s enemy.
5. Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong one.
Many people struggle with this area the most. If you even bring up the idea of forgiveness they protest, “But you don’t know what they did to me!” Forgiving isn’t saying what they did was okay. Instead, you are making a choice to not hold it against the person’s account.
One time, I remember saying, “But Lord, someone needs to pay for this!” And the Lord said, “I paid.”
I saw that refusing to forgive is saying what Jesus did was not enough. That his payment didn’t cover this offense. The sacrifice Jesus made covered every sin committed (Hebrews 10:12). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he was talking about the payment for sins.
6. Forgiveness may not be acknowledged.
God tells us to forgive one another. But the results are not up to us. And yet, God still requires forgiveness. If we want to be Christ followers, we need to obey what he tells us in Scripture. Then leave the rest to him. Our job is to forgive; God takes it from there.
There may be times you forgive someone and the relationship is still broken. Then what? Remember your job is to obey. We may hope for a gracious response when we’ve finally taken that step of obedience and forgiven someone. But we must graciously accept whatever response is given.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
I love that God tells us as much as it depends on us. God is acknowledging sometimes it will be difficult, maybe even impossible.
7. Forgiveness is not easy.
Often when we are mistreated, we have a tendency to believe the the action was deliberate. We are hurt and convince ourselves the person meant it. When this occurs, it is crucial to remember Jesus forgave freely. He asked God to forgive those who hung him on a cross even though he had done no wrong (Luke 23:34). He even said that his crucifiers didn’t know what they were doing. If we took this attitude when people hurt us, it would make it so much easier to forgive. Wouldn’t you want to be forgiven?
Father, I pray for those who are reading this article. I pray if there is someone they need to forgive that you would prepare their heart. I pray that you would go before them and give them the words to say, and help them to simply give forgiveness as Jesus showed us. God, I pray this, not because of who we are, but because of whose we are. For we pray this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
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