By Pastor Terry Hoskins –
God expect me to forget when I forgive? These are a few of the questions I hear in the counseling office on a daily basis as we deal with the issues surrounding forgiveness. The practice of forgiveness is clearly explained in God’s Word, which means that if you choose not to forgive someone, then you choose to sin. Sin is a violation or action that is against God’s clear commands in His Word. When we sin, it hinders our relationship with God and the people He has put in our lives.
Forgiveness is a choice
The reason forgiveness is so hard to practice is because it is not natural. We eat when we are hungry. We drink when we are thirsty. We sleep when we are tired, but these are natural practices that happen because we have certain needs that must be met to survive and function properly. Forgiveness is not a basic need like eating, drinking, and sleeping, it is opposite of what we naturally want to do. This is even true with our loved ones, when they hurt us, our first reaction often is to pay them back! Look at our world, and it is quite clear that revenge, payback, and unforgiveness is the way the majority of people operate.
God tells us that we don’t want to forgive others because we have a heart problem. Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
How often must I forgive? Why is it so hard to forgive? Are there times when I don’t have to forgive? Does (Matthew 15:19, NIV) The heart in the Bible is not talking about the muscle that pumps blood, but the motives behind our will and actions. God’s Word gives us further insight by telling us that, “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV) So much for following your heart because it is deceptive, but that is why we have God’s Word to shine light on the our evil hearts. This is why forgiveness is so hard for us to practice because we want make others pay for the wrong they have caused in our lives. This is the natural inclinations of our sinful hearts.
God forgave us first
Those that have fully trusted Christ as Lord and Savior should be the BEST at forgiving others because God has forgiven us of so much. Listen to what God’s Word says, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler (Satan) of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following the its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His (God’s) great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1-5, NIV) God’s Word tells us that we are enemies of God until He washes us clean by His love and grace through His Son Jesus Christ. This forgiveness is super-natural because it changes us from followers of Satan into children of God. Christians should pour out forgiveness towards others because of the how much we have been forgiven. God’s Word says, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, JUST as Christ God forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32, NIV)
-NOT a feeling, but a choice to actively pursue others who have wronged me, and delete their debt of sin against me. This means I will not bring up the offense that has been forgiven to this person, nor will I dwell on it myself, and finally I will not share it with others.
-NOT forgetting the offenses or hurts, and not allowing it to cause me to grow in bitterness towards the one I already forgave.
-NOT done for my own health, but first and foremost because God commands that I do so. Otherwise it becomes more about my healing than my obedience towards God.
-NOT a one time deal, but a lifestyle. Christ is our example of living a life of forgiveness.
-NOT done in my own strength, but through the grace of God that has been poured in my life. Now I am able to show that same love and mercy towards others because of the work of the Holy Spirit changing my heart.