I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and and how powerful it can be. I don’t spend much time judging people like I used to, and I don’t hold grudges very long because I want others to forgive me when I mess up. None of us are perfect, and there are parts of my past that I wish I would have done differently. There are things that I can’t change, but I don’t live in the past anymore.
My guess is that I’m not the only one who has ever lied to or mistreated people who mattered to them. I forgave myself a long time ago, and I forgave those who hurt me. It’s not always easy, but I strive to do it now. I treat people with respect, and I give second chances because so often I need a second chance. I forgive because I want to be forgiven, and I forgive because I have been forgiven.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
It can be really difficult to forgive when we’re hurt, especially when we know that the person hurting us is in the wrong and not even sorry about it, but in Psalm 145:8, we see that, The Lord is gracious and slow to anger and rich in love. (NIV) The KJV says, The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy.
Forgiving someone that hurts you doesn’t always mean that it’s going to restore your relationship back to what it was, or that you’ll even remain in a relationship at all. I’ve offered up forgiveness when the person who hurt me didn’t deserve it, and I’ve been forgiven at times when I didn’t deserve it. But we do not forgive to help the other person or because the other person deserves it. We forgive because GOD created us in His image. (Genesis 1:27) We forgive so that our actions are pleasing to Him.
When we choose not to forgive people who hurt us, it keeps us from living a truly joyful, fulfilled, God-centered life. When we look deeper into Matthew 5, we learn that in order to be Christ-like, this is what He tells us to do:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
When forgiveness seems impossible for us, we need to remember that Jesus forgave us. He didn’t just forgive a few of us either. He forgave every sin that has ever been and will ever be committed.
He did more than simply say, “I forgive you.” He gave up perfection in Heaven to make Himself feel all of the pain and suffering that we feel as humans, and then He died so that we could receive forgiveness – before we even asked for it.
No amount of forgiveness that we have to offer will ever compare to the forgiveness that he has given us. And when we forgive, we break the chains that keep us from having the kind of life that is blessed as a result of being pleasing to God.
I’ve always wanted to live a life that is filled with peace and comfort and joy, but I didn’t live that kind of life until I let Jesus in. Knowing that I’ve been saved by His grace makes me want to be more like Him, and I want to continue growing and living in His will.
Have you ever forgiven someone who didn’t deserve it? Have you ever offered forgiveness to someone who didn’t deserve it?