You’ve been hurt…again. Your emotions have taken a beating, and you’re feeling a bit like a punching bag. The last thing you want to think about or do is forgive! Anger? Check! Indignation? Check! Bitterness? Getting there.
And then, you read these verses…
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”Matthew 6:14 NIV
“Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other, as God has forgiven you through Christ.”Ephesians 4:32 GWT
“When you forgive people for what they have done, I forgive them, too. For when I forgive–if, indeed, I need to forgive anything–I do it in Christ’s presence because of you,”2 Corinthians 2:10 GNT
“I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. We all know what goes on in his mind.”2 Corinthians 2:11 CEV
Matthew 6:14 is, likely, a familiar verse. Have you ever noticed, though, that it comes immediately after Jesus’ prayer, in which He instructs us and models for us how to pray? Let’s back up.
“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.”Matthew 6:12 GNT
Verse 12 of Matthew 6 tells us that we should go to God the Father to ask for Him to let go, or release, the debt our sins, our offenses against Him, have incurred. It also says we are to forgive those who have offended or hurt us (even unconsciously, and things just aren’t right between us, yet). Do you see how God forgiving us and our forgiving others go together?
As Ephesians 4:23 indicates, we have forgiveness from God, through Christ; therefore, we need to extend that forgiveness to others by not demanding the debt that is owed us (whatever that debt may be, even if it’s emotional). Forgiveness is a free gift. God, through His Son, Jesus, paid the price for our sins, forgives our offenses, and cancels our debt against Him; we just accept the gift. That’s the same forgiveness He is requiring from us. It’s not the kind that is contingent on someone apologizing for what they’ve done. It doesn’t mean the one who has hurt us has to ask us for forgiveness before we give it. We give it; no strings attached…because God forgave us, no strings attached!
Whew! Sound hard? Check out the beginning of Ephesians 4:23! We are not only to let go of the debt someone owes us by forgiving them, but we are to accompany it with kindness and sympathy. What’s interesting is that God’s view of “kind” is different from ours; in fact, there isn’t a word in our language that fully grasps its meaning. It means “kind,” obviously, but God takes it to another sphere, making the kind action also beneficial to the kingdom of God. When kindness is accompanied by sympathy, there is a love displayed from the heart; God, Who is love, is on display. When others see this love through forgiveness, kindness, and sympathy, it’s foundational. It’s different from any other “love” they may have known. It displays the kingship of Jesus through our lives and makes it visible to a world so in need of Him. So, if your actions toward your “debtor” are not kind and sympathetic, my guess is, they are harsh, sharp, and/or bitter. Our actions display our hearts, just as our words overflow from it. If our hearts have been cleaned up by our Savior, then, Biblically, we are to mimic what He has done for us.
If you find yourself feeling bitter toward someone, take a look at 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 above. There’s a connection between bitterness (or lack of forgiveness) and Satan, taking advantage of us as believers. We need to recognize this…and recognize it well. His thoughts of overtaking us are many; he puts a whole lot of mental effort into his ultimate, evil purpose–to destroy us…and that might not be physical, rather from the inside, out. So, when we choose to withhold forgiveness from someone, Satan one ups us. I don’t know about you, but when someone takes advantage of me, it makes me angry…and hurts. Then, what have we really done? Heaped on anger and hurt upon anger and hurt. We’re no better off! In fact, we’re worse off!
We all know there are times when others hurt those we love, and we harbor bitterness toward the offender. Verse 10 of 2 Corinthians 2 talks about when those we love live out a Christ-like example and make the choice to forgive; we have a tough time with that choice, but the Word says, “I forgive them, too. For when I forgive–if, indeed, I need to forgive anything–I do it in Christ’s presence because of you.” In looking at the original words and their meanings, this verse seems to more appropriately say, “A certain one, whom you grant forgiveness to, is a certain one whom I, also, grant forgiveness to. If I grant anyone forgiveness, it’s because of the presence of Christ in me.” This is it in a nut shell.
Forgiveness is not something we find easy to give. It’s only because of God’s example of forgiveness, through Christ, and His giving us that gift, that we are empowered, through His Spirit, to give this gift to others.