When our loved ones or we are wronged, offended and hurt by others, it is sometimes difficult to forgive. Often, our first inclination is to do just the opposite of what we are taught in the Golden Rule. Instead of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, we sometimes have the urge to do unto others as they have done unto us. But it is not right for us to seek revenge. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (NKJV)
So how do we do it? How do we forgive others?
The first step for the child of God is to remember the extent to which you have been forgiven. Those of us who have received God’s grace have no right to withhold that same forgiveness from someone else. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (NKJV)
The second step is to pray for the person who has offended you. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...” (NKJV) The fact is, God will soften your heart toward the person who has wronged you when you pray for them. It’s hard to stay mad at a person for whom you are praying.
The third step is to stop rehearsing the hurt that another has inflicted upon you. I remember vividly years ago, that I had a lot of time to think while driving to seminary. As I drove down the road, I kept replaying in my mind what a man had done to someone I dearly loved. I had tried to forgive the man, but the incident kept popping up in my head. I recall asking God to help me forgive the man and telling Him, “Lord, I forgave him, but I’m mad at him all over again.” In that moment, in His still, small voice, the Lord said, “So, forgive him again.” I did exactly as the Lord instructed me, and today, I have a good relationship with the man I had such a hard time forgiving all those years ago.
For us, sometimes forgiveness takes time, but when God forgives, it is instantaneous. Once a person repents, God gives His grace—unmerited favor (1 John 1:9). We should strive to do the same for others.
Does this mean that we are to forgive and forget? Well, the truth is, sometimes it is impossible to truly forget. When the prophet Isaiah wrote that God does not remember our sin, what he was saying is that when we repent, our omniscient God forgives us and chooses not to act in light of the sin we have committed. He does not hold our sin against us or treat us according to what our sins deserve. For this, we should be thankful and offer the same grace to others.
Are you having a difficult time forgiving someone? Remember that God has forgiven you. Talk to Him about the situation and He will give you the strength to forgive.
Read Mark 11:25 and Colossians 3:13
Jerry Fulton's goal in life is to share the love of Jesus, so others might become followers of Christ.