We have all been hurt by someone sometime. It may be family, a friend, pastor, church member, teacher, work colleague……. and sometimes that hurt can have a significant impact on our lives, the choices we make and how we interact with other people.
It’s for your benefit
The important point is that forgiveness is for your benefit, although it will most likely, also be a blessing to those around you. It is important to work toward being able to forgive, especially for those really painful and hurtful situations. Unforgiveness can lead to bitterness. Someone somewhere said that “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”
15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Impact on other relationships
The longer you hold onto unforgiveness, the more it will impact your relationship with God and other people, sometimes long after the event. This is one reason why forgiveness is included in the Lord’s prayer. Matthew 6:9-13
The ideal is that you are reconciled to the person who you need to forgive, but this is not always possible.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Looking for a loophole?
Do not buy into the idea that you do not need to forgive another person if they have not asked for forgiveness. Some people base this idea on inference from a passage in Luke 17, but nowhere does the Bible explicitly state we do not need to forgive. Consider that you may have been hurt by a person who is now dead, and they can never ask your forgiveness.
You do not want to carry around a sense that you are owed a debt for the rest of your life, especially a debt that will never be paid by someone, who will not, or can not, ask for forgiveness.
Steps to forgive
So how do you forgive when it is hard? Here are some suggested steps:
- Understand what forgiveness is and is not. It is not necessarily reconciliation.
- Forgiving does not mean that the person is forgiven by God – that is between them and God.
- In contrast to your relationship with another person, forgiveness between you and God always means reconciliation because He is God and He is always present.
- Decide that you need to work toward forgiveness where you cannot forgive straight away. Pray something like, “Lord I can’t forgive but I am ok for you to help me forgive.”
- Consider Jesus on the cross. He was completely innocent, falsely accused, brutalised and yet He was able to call out, “Father forgive them”
- Consider how Jesus has forgiven you.
- Meet with another Christian you trust, share honestly how you feel, and then pray together about it.
- Come to a place where you can express forgiveness toward the person, whether that is face to face or not. It may be that you say this just to God.
- Once you have forgiven the person, ask God to heal your heart. Again it may be helpful to pray this through with a friend or church leader.
- Pray a blessing for the person who has hurt you. Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:14
Find stories from others
You might find it helpful to talk to other people or read stories of others and how they faced difficult situations where they needed them to forgive and have come through victorious. For example the story of Corrie ten Boom and how she met and forgave a Nazi prison camp guard.
A suggested prayer:
Lord, I forgive _________________
Lord, I give you permission to take the judgment and bitterness out of my life. I do not want this in my life I surrender it to you and ask you to remove it – to heal me where I have been wounded, to forgive me where I have sinned. I choose not to blame or hold the actions of others against them. I hereby surrender my right to be paid back for my loss by the one who has sinned against me, and in so doing I declare my trust in God, alone, as the Righteous Judge.
Father God, bless them in every way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.