If it wasn’t for the birth of Jesus and the fulfilment of His purpose, we would spend eternity suffering the consequences of our sins (John 3:36). And let’s be clear, we are all in the need of forgiveness, for we have all committed sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20). However, God has favoured us so much that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to us (Acts 13:38). Let me be the first to admit I used to be absolutely terrible at forgiving. To be completely honest, maybe I still am a bit. I sometimes find myself in situations where I thought to have forgiven someone, only to find out I actually didn’t. It’s a bit hard for me to write about this subject because I know I have treated people in exactly the opposite manner as I am about to encourage you to do.
I am quite good at holding grudges and I can even say that some situations made me become bitter. It wasn’t until I cared enough for a particular person to want to wholeheartedly forgive them, that I started reading every single thing there was to read about forgiving and forgetting. What I learned? The simple fact that we should forgive others as God forgives us (Colossians 3:13). Let’s get into that a bit more. How many times have you let God down? And how many more times have you vowed not to do so again, until you are on your knees again, asking forgiveness for the very same thing? And does He forgive you? Surely He does. So who are we that we shouldn’t do the same for others? Some need the other person to come to them and acknowledge their wrongdoing before they can forgive them. But what about when they don’t? In that case, we need to learn to forgive without getting closure or an apology. The essence here is that we don’t forgive for the benefit of the other, but for our own (Matthew 6:14-15).
Somebody once said that anger is like drinking poison but expecting somebody else to die from it. And isn’t that spot on? When you fail to forgive and let go, you’re hurting yourself most. Holding grudges, social media stalking, flashes of anger: they’re doing you no good. True forgiveness will free you from negative thoughts and feelings. Now let me be clear, you don’t have to be best friends with that person again or fully let them back into your life, but you do need to forgive them. Why? The answer hereto is simple: because Jesus died for their sins too (Romans 5:8).
Now when somebody does come to you to apologize, please watch the way you treat that person. Always try to channel it back to you and your relationship with others, preferably with God. I’m sure there have been times you were reluctant to pray for forgiveness because you just felt so ashamed. In this case, the beauty even is that God has already written that He will forgive you (1 John 1:9). But now there is this person who has come to you for forgiveness, and isn’t even sure what your response will be.. Just imagine how much courage they must have gathered! Although the Bible tells us to forgive time after time (Matthew 18:22), you don’t necessarily need to fully reconcile. If you want to end the relationship you have with this person, that is your right and it’s ok, as long as you don’t do it in an unforgiving manner. Remember that forgiveness is a two-way street.
Forgiving someone will set you free, but for the other to receive forgiveness will set them free too. I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I’ve spent in the presence of God, just crying for Him to free me from my pain. This is one side of the story. What about the person that hurt you? It isn’t always easy for them either. To have broken your trust, to see the disappointed look in your eyes and to witness the pain they’ve caused.. They have let you down and they know it, they do. And even if they don’t, the Lord tells us that vengeance is His, not ours (Romans 12:19). In the same way that we feel freed when we ask for forgiveness in prayer, we should let others know we have forgiven them, so that they too can receive redemption.
Take it from a person that has struggled with forgiving people quite a bit, praying about it helps. We don’t only need to pray to God to be forgiven, but also for the strength to forgive others. Better yet, don’t stop praying for the strength to forgive until you are praying for that person’s well-being. It wasn’t until I managed to wholeheartedly forgive people, even those who weren’t sorry, that I could fully understand and experience the depth of God’s forgiveness. Now I can’t honestly say that I always practice what I have just preached, but I try, I try very hard. Do you?