You know that you are supposed to forgive as a Christian, but let’s be honest. It isn’t easy. I mean, they hurt us badly. Nothing in me wants to forgive them. Though, many of us Christians don’t realize that unforgiveness is not a luxury we are allowed to have. God commands us to forgive! But why? Here are 4 Reasons why we must forgive and what it does for us.
This last Christmas, I spent the week at my brother’s house with his wife and children. Being a four year old, my nephew is learning how to use his words to describe his feelings rather than lashing out when he is angry.
As he played one day, his six-year-old sister walked by and carelessly bumped into him, knocking him hard onto the ground, and unapologetically kept walking.
“Aniyah!” he screamed across the room. He was fuming.
“You have hurt me!”
“Wow,” I thought. ” Bravo, nephew, way to use your words to express how you feel.”
But then it took a dark turn.
“And now I,” he was breathing heavily.
“WILL HURT YOU!”
Raising his fist, he charged her and slugged her in the face.
My brother ran as Dad to the rescue, picking up his crying little girl and once again telling his 4-year-old, you cannot hit when you are angry.
“But hey,” I thought, “at least he used his words this time to express his feelings. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Though this story seems comical when watching it unfold with children, it’s less cute when we see it rampant in the world around us. Let’s face it; unforgiveness is everywhere. Hatred fills the daily news channels. Social Media is spreading unforgiveness like wildfire. Politics have become a slamming contest, less about policies and more about pointing out how evil the other side is.
But for Christians, it must become a different story. Why?
1. Forgiveness is Relationship
You cannot have any healthy relationship without forgiveness.
A Relationship void of forgiveness is like a car without oil. Maybe it can run for a while, but soon enough, the engine is going to break down.
(Trust me, a bad oil change has taken two of my cars. R.I.P. Levi and Buzz. I miss you every day.)
If we are unwilling to forgive, then we are unwilling to have any real relationship in our life. Without forgiveness, every relationship will become like walking on eggshells. People will become worried about offending us or setting us off.
The world says, “You hurt me. Now I’m going to remember that, and I’m going to pay you back! You’ll pay for what you did to me. I deserve justice.”
Unforgiveness promises justice, but like sin, it is a counterfeit. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets hurt.
Every time we get hurt, we have a choice. If we choose to forgive, we let it go. If we decide not to forgive, we pick up a brick with the offender’s name on it. Claiming we will remember, and one day we will get justice.
It happens again with someone else, and we pick up another brick. Then again, and again, brick after brick, year after year, we load our soul up with too much weight for it to handle.
We wonder why we feel heavy, pessimistic, skeptical of others. We wonder why we can’t trust anymore, feel anymore, and have no deep relationships in our lives.
We may never see that person who hurt us again, but we still hold on to it.
We have all met that person who still brings up how they were wronged ten years ago. They are still carrying the weight.
If we want to have healthy relationships in our lives, we must embrace forgiveness.
2. Forgiveness is the Gospel
Everything about Christianity is rooted in forgiveness. The entire foundation of our faith is that God forgives us.
The world thinks forgiveness is a weakness. But we know it is the gospel, and thus the most powerful thing we can do.
To say I am a Christian, but to be unwilling to forgive someone is like saying I am a vegetarian who doesn’t believe in eating veggies. It is doesn’t make sense.
If forgiveness is from God, then where is unforgiveness from?
Bitterness, grudges, unforgiveness, just like sin, give a temporary feeling of pleasure but always leads to death.
“But they deserve to be hated,” we justify, ” I have a right to hold a grudge held against them for what they did!”
How do you know if you have unforgiveness towards someone? Here is a simple test.
When you hear their name does your heart jump?
When you see their car, do you freak out?
When you see them at the store, work, or church, do you walk out of your way to avoid them?
When you receive a call or text from them, do you not respond?
If you answered yes to any of these, there is a hurt you aren’t dealing with.
Unforgiveness goes against the gospel and is thus one of the greatest self-sabotaging things you can do in your life.
For a powerful testimony about forgiveness (Read about the time a North Korean guard forgave me.)
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3. Forgiveness is a Command
God is so serious about forgiveness that he goes on to say.
You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:12-15 (MSG)
We cut ourselves off from God in the area we are unwilling to forgive.
God is love. Forgiveness is in his nature. When I refuse to forgive someone, I refuse to let God into that area of my life. Any area that I refuse to let God touch, I am not making him Lord in.
And if God isn’t Lord of all, is he really Lord at all?
We must come to a place where we realize that forgiveness for the Christian is not a friendly suggestion. It is mandatory.
4. Forgiveness is for you, not for them.
Forgiveness doesn’t set the other person free; forgiveness sets me free.
Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what happened. It frees you from the weight.
“I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.” TD Jakes
Unforgiveness will cause that tragedy to reply in your mind over and over, allowing that person to keep hurting you. Forgiveness breaks the cycle, freeing you from continual pain.
You have been hurt enough by your tragedy, don’t hurt yourself more by not forgiving.
Maybe we don’t feel strong enough to forgive, and that is ok. But what we need to ask ourselves is, “is the cross powerful enough to forgive what they did to me?”
If the answer is yes, then we don’t need to wait for justice. Justice was already given on the cross when Jesus died for the sins of all.
We must pray and say, “Jesus, your cross was enough, and even though I don’t feel it, I choose to forgive because you already have.”
It’s time to forgive, cry and let go of the pain. I am so so sorry that it happened to you, it was not ok. However, we are hurting ourselves even more by holding on to it.
If in reading this, you have begun to realize that you have unforgiveness in your heart towards someone, then say this prayer with me.
“Jesus, I forgive _______ for __________. I confess your cross was enough to forgive them, and so I forgive them too. I release all judgments towards them, and I trust you as the perfect judge. I let go of what I have been holding on to, and I give back to them what belongs to them. I take back the pieces of my heart that belong to me. Wash me and make me whole again. In Jesus’ name, Amen. ”
If you said that prayer, I am so so proud of you! Because this is such a vast topic that is so close to home for many of us, I will give practical tools to walk out our new forgiveness lifestyles next week.
Until then, please comment below and let me know any thoughts you have on forgiveness and anything that helps you to forgive!