Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
One of the most difficult things to do is forgive. We give many reasons for this:
We think the other person should take initiative.
That person hurt me.
He doesn't deserve to be forgiven.
We like to wallow in our bitterness.
We tell ourselves we can't forgive.
She hasn't apologized, so why should I forgive her?
I want to hurt him like he hurt me.
I need to prove I'm stronger than her.
This is unfortunate and not what the Lord has called us to do.
Forgiveness = Release
One way to describe forgiveness is release. When we forgive, we release ourselves from the desire to get back at someone for hurting us.
By nature, we are creatures of bitterness, anger, and malice – especially when we get hurt, offended, or our expectations are not met. We want to lash out, hold a grudge, and hurt those who hurt us. Our nature scoffs at forgiveness, which means being a forgiving person must come to us through supernatural means.
Those who know how much they have been forgiven are more willing and able to forgive because they understand God's grace. Therefore, they want to reflect this through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, unbelievers forgive, but only God can penetrate the heart and change our natures from revenge-seeking to forgiving.
Too Much Weight
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable about how many times we are to forgive fellow believers, and the answer is 70 times 7, a Jewish way of saying every time.
When we forgive, it is not that we deny or forget what was done, but we don't hold it against the offender. One who does not forgive does not hurt someone else as much as himself. Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into every area of life and affects those we care about most. Every time we don't obey God and forgive, we add a weight to our life. As these weights accumulate, they damage us more and more.
Though we forgive, it doesn't mean things don't need to change, nor does it mean we overlook sin or injustice. Those who sin against us need to repent (Luke 17:3), as that is part of the process. However, we should have the attitude of forgiveness and give them and the situation to God, rather than allow bitterness arise in our hearts.
How to Know
How do I know if I have forgiven someone?
One of my mentors said the way we know is if we can serve them with joy. Forgiveness isn't so much as releasing the offender for what he has done to us, but releasing ourselves from bitterness and enmity.
Do you have trouble forgiving? If so, ask yourself these questions: How much have I been forgiven of? Have I put away the things that are the foundation of unforgiveness Paul mentions: evil, wrath, and slander?
Only when we understand God's grace and forgiveness for us, will we truly understand how to forgive others!
Dr. Michael Weis is a pastor, video operator, editor, and social media manager at Zion's Hope.