Conflict is inevitable. Growth is optional. Choose to grow. Very rare in life do the best things in life come easy. Forgiveness can be a messy process, but I hope that you find these articles helpful and encouraging to whatever situation you’re facing. In our last two posts, I discussed 4 Thing forgiveness is NOT (part I, part II). For deeper discussion, I encourage you to read those posts, but for way of reminder, here is how to F.A.I.L. at forgiveness:
Forgiveness is NOT…
- Forgetting what happened
- Absent of consequences
- Ignoring the pain
- License to keep on sinning
Forgiveness can be defined as canceling a hurt or debt. It’s not that the debt or hurt do not exist, but forgiveness is refusing to demand payment for a particular hurt or debt. There are two key principles to understand before we can begin to forgive those who hurt us. First, we must learn and accept the fact that forgiveness starts with God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Justice and forgiveness are not opposites. Rather, God’s justice is the basis and foundation to His forgiveness. The fact that God is just gives Him the creditability to forgive. In Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). While on the cross, Jesus forgave the very people who put Him there (Luke 24:47). Our redemption is ultimately found through Christ’s forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).
Second, we must recognize that forgiveness was paid by Christ. While God forgave our sins, He did so at the cost of His Son’s death on a cross (Hebrews 9:22). While Jesus died for the sins committed by us, we must also get to a point in our lives where we recognize that Jesus also died for the sins committed against us. When we say that Christ’s death isn’t enough to cover the sins of those who hurt us, we’re actually saying that Christ’s death isn’t enough for us. Don’t diminish the work of the cross by demanding more for the sins committed against you than God required of your own personal sins. We must remember that forgiveness starts with God and forgiveness is paid by Christ.
So how do we forgive? Here are 4 steps to forgiving someone (maybe that person is yourself). How to be F.R.E.E. in Forgiveness:
1. Focus first on the God who saved you instead of the person who hurt you.
Forgiveness is not downplaying the hurt you experienced, but looking up to the grace, mercy, freedom, love, joy, peace, and purpose found in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. When we’ve been set free, we can turn around and freely give. Reread the Scripture references above and pray that God remind you of your own forgiveness that’s been given by Him. For a deeper challenge to your soul, read Matthew 18:21-35, and decide which character you are in the story (Hint: you’re not the hero).
2. Release the control that pain has over you.
Resentment can last a lifetime. Staying bitter to a person is a lot like drinking poison and hoping the other person is hurt. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for objection to racial segregation in his country, and he was finally released in 1990. When asked why he was able to forgive those who put him in prison, he said, “If I did not forgive, then I would still be in prison.” Don’t ignore the pain. Pain is real. Feel the pain. Express your pain. Then release the control of pain in your life.
3. Expect nothing in return.
Forgiveness takes one person, not two. Forgiveness is your decision whether or not the offender asks for it. Reconciliation takes two people, and forgiveness is the first step to reconciliation, but forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. At the end of your life, you are responsible for your choices and actions. Don’t live in bitterness. Choose to forgive the person who hurt you without expectation of the response you want. Forgiveness is what you need. Response is what you want. There’s value in knowing the difference.
4. Exchange the grudge for grace.
You’ve heard the saying “Hurt people hurt people.” In the same way, “Forgiven people forgive people.” No one says when they were a child, I want to grow up to be a bitter, jaded, angry person, who spends his days hoping for revenge…but the reality is life is tough. We’re in a broken, sinful world, where we go through trials, tribulations, and difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, there are times when people hurt us. But thankfully, we have a God who has saved us from this world, and while he hurt him… nailed him to the cross even… He if faithful and just to forgive. And as I stand in the freedom and light found only His forgiveness, I can find it in my heart to forgive those who hurt me. Be F.R.E.E. today by choosing to forgive others as Christ forgave you.
High School Pastor
North Ridge Community Church