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Forgiveness Is Tough

If there’s a command in the Bible that’s difficult to keep, it’s the repeated command to forgive others. It’s really tough. As you look at the model prayer of Jesus, He encourages us to express our forgiveness to others in light of the fact that we’ve been forgiven of so much.

It’s an unconditional command. There is no crime against us that escapes this clause. But it’s so tough when you talk to somebody who has suffered some of the most awful atrocities known to man. How do you counsel someone who has been through some of life’s worst abuses to forgive the abuser?

First off, you understand the relationship between our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us. We deserve separation from God for eternity in hell for even a single sin, yet He has seen fit to offer us limitless forgiveness on the basis of the blood (the crucifixion) of His innocent Son. Our unwillingness to forgive others demonstrates a lack of understanding of the nature of the cross. As David Jeremiah put it, “When unforgiveness fill our hearts, it is apparent that the Holy Spirit does not.”

But you also have to see, from God’s eternal perspective, just how much the benefits of forgiveness outweigh the short-term payoffs of forgiveness. I think of three words…

Release

That is, our forgiveness provides a benefit to others in that we release them from any payment back to us, just as God’s forgiveness of us has released us from our eternal debt for sin that we owe Him.

Relief

Our forgiveness of others relieves us of a tremendous burden. We don’t have to be angry anymore. The fact is, unforgiveness can be seriously damaging to our emotional, mental, and even physical well-being and can infect all of our future relationships. Forgiveness offers relief from this.

Reconciliation

This one isn’t universal, it doesn’t always happen, but it’s amazing to watch one of those moments where twenty years of anger and bitterness are broken in a single moment of forgiveness. Relationships are what life is made of, and they are restored only through the power of grace and forgiveness.

Amazingly, of all the topics Jesus addressed in the model prayer, this is the one that He chose to elaborate on after the “Amen.” It’s extremely important. But how do we forgive?

  1. Figure out what is owed to you. (time, money, affirmation, affection, etc.)
  2. Write it off, which is a decision, not an emotion. You may not feel it, but do it. Decide that nothing else is owed to you.
  3. Express forgiveness to the person, and express it to God in prayer.
  4. Repeat. It’s a daily chore – forgiveness isn’t easy and usually doesn’t happen completely in an instant, so repeat these steps as often as necessary.

What about when someone hasn’t apologized yet? For Jesus, it doesn’t seem to matter. On the cross, He looked at those crucifying Him and proclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” even as they were pounding the spikes through His wrist. In light of the cross, who has offended you to the point that they should not be forgiven? Isn’t it time to begin to heal?

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  • Chris

    What about you, Sir? Can you give us an example where you have forgiven someone when most wouldn’t forgive?

    • Brandon

      Chris, good and fair question, and while the answer is a yes, I am also careful on my blog about being too open when it comes to the lives of others, so not in specifics. I can tell you, however, that my life changed a few years ago as a result of something rather significant. Everything was different after that point and I was able to come to a place of complete forgiveness and reconciliation, but it was a process. It took some time and some repetitive prayers, but yes.

  • Chris

    Brandon, fair answer. Sometimes I find it difficult to completely forgive. There are times I forgive, but I remain aware of the past so that I don’t allow that person to take advantage of me again. I’m not sure that is considered true forgiveness. There are others that I have not, and may never forgive. Only time will tell. Thanks for responding.