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
Forgiveness is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp.
It does not come easy, and it is often not truly deserved; but Jesus lets us know that not only is forgiveness necessary, but forgiveness is a continuous process. There are situations where forgiveness is as simple as saying, ‘I forgive you.’ However, when we have been deeply hurt, forgiveness may need to be given moment to moment, with each breath. Every time that we are reminded of the hurt someone has caused us, we must immediately stop, forgive, and release it. If we don’t, our pain causes us to become bitter, which is poison to our souls.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a matter of will; we can either choose to forgive or choose not to. You can forgive and release someone without ever actually feeling like it. You don’t have to want to forgive them, but taking that action is a work of faith and obedience to what God has said.
You may feel relief from forgiving and moving forward, and you may not. Just remember that the choice to forgive is exactly that – a choice. Additionally, it is imperative to forgive in order for us to fully heal. The Bible also says that if we hold onto unforgiveness, God cannot forgive us of our own sins. God expects us to model the example the He has given us for forgiveness of deeds.
We must learn to separate the people from their sins. It is much easier to forgive others when we realize the source of their actions. Ephesians 6:12 tells us where we are to direct our energy, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
You must come to an understanding that every harmful thing that is done to you in this life is a strategy created by the enemy to cause you to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness. The enemy of our souls uses those closest to us to cause us to fail. Grasping this helps us to forgive easier, because we can feel compassion for our loved ones if they should fall into the trap that was set for them.
Many of us have been raised to believe that anger is a bad thing, but even Jesus exhibited righteous anger when He found people using the house of God as a money making scheme. Interestingly enough, the source of anger is spoken of in Genesis. As God cursed the serpent, He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Enmity isn’t just anger, but deep-rooted hatred. When is the last time that you said or felt like you hated someone? When is the last time that you actually blamed satan for what you were angry about?
We’ve spent too long hating each other, rather than hating the source of the behavior shown by others. The enemy has used his cunning to turn our anger on each other, ourselves, and even toward God, rather than on himself. Forgiveness is a way of accepting our part in the enemy’s manipulation, recognizing the source (satan), and releasing the person (and ourselves) from the burden of judgment.
The king was very angry. He handed him over to men who would beat and hurt him until he paid all the money he owed. So will My Father in heaven do to you, if each one of you does not forgive his brother from his heart. Matthew 18:34-35
This verse paints a bleak picture of what we can expect if we do not choose to truly forgive. We must choose to forgive from the heart. How, though, can we forgive from the heart when we don’t feel like forgiving?
When you forgive without feeling the peace come and the pain go, the forgiveness is all in your mind. This is why we must continue to pray and forgive. Every time the pain comes up in your mind, forgive again. Eventually it becomes meaningful and your forgiveness will have come from the heart.
Have you struggled with forgiveness?
What misconceptions have you held in regard to forgiving others?