Read: Colossians 3:1-17; Ephesians 4:30-32; Proverbs 14:17; Matthew 5:38-42, 6:14-15, 18:21-22; 1 John 1:9
If forgiveness were easy, the Bible wouldn’t repeatedly remind and command us to forgive one another. Forgiving doesn’t come naturally to anyone, and it is a choice we have to make intentionally, sometimes over and over again. Thankfully, the Bible is also an incredible story of God’s forgiveness of us. Before we repented, before we ever said sorry, and even before we were aware of our wrong and hurtful actions, God was moving in his plan to send his one and only son Jesus to forgive our sins by dying in our place, freely forgiving us of an enormous debt. This is beautiful news, and this is where we draw our strength to forgive others.
And yet the reality is, when we are hurt or when the consequences of someone else’s actions fall out on us in deeply painful and lasting ways, forgiveness feels impossible. But God promises that he makes all things possible. And as followers of Jesus, with his spirit inside of us, our hearts are being formed into something more and more like the heart of Christ. In these moments of deep pain, forgiveness becomes an act of discipline, obedience, and faith. And we cling to the promise that freedom is on the other side of forgiveness.
Yet at the same time, forgiveness is not forgetting, and forgiveness is not foregoing boundaries. Forgiveness is faith that if God is big enough to carry our sin, he is big enough to carry our wounds, too. It’s an act of humility and surrender to Jesus as we forgive, remembering the enormity of what he has forgiven in us. And ultimately, it’s a step into freedom. When we choose not to forgive, we are the ones who are punished because refusing to forgive sows seeds of anger, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts. But choosing forgiveness brings healing, and while it is no guarantee that a relationship will be perfectly restored, we can know that forgiveness will lead us back into the joy and abundant life God intends for us.
Why do you think it is easier sometimes to nurse our wounds and dwell on our hurts rather than forgive the people who’ve hurt us?
Have you been harboring hostile feelings toward someone who has hurt you? How is that affecting your life, your relationships? What steps can you take to move toward forgiveness?