“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” – Colossians 3:13
Forgive. It’s such a small word that packs big a punch. When dealing with ourselves, we want forgiveness to be offered to us freely. When dealing with others, it’s not something we quickly jump to or even want in moments of hurt.
For such a small word, Jesus has big thoughts on the matter. This year, He has taught me just what it means to forgive. Not the passive, “I want to move past this conversation and get over this awkwardness,” forgiveness. But the kind that brings you to love the person, to see them as Christ sees them, and ultimately hope for their good. So, below are just a few things God has revealed to me on the topic of forgiving others and letting His love heal those dark and hurting places.
1. Holding onto hurt never results in healing.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
“Get rid of…” Those are pretty strong words. And not only words, but a command. Get rid of it. Take care of it. Make it disappear. Move forward.
How many times do we find ourselves practicing the opposite of these words? We sit and we stew as the wound festers and our hurt deepens, all the while thinking we have the right to hold their sin against them. In reality, we are harming ourselves, our walk, and our joy.
2. Sometimes they won’t be sorry…and that’s OK.
“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.” – Daniel 9:9
There will be many people that hurt you in your lifetime. Some will know they did and ask for your forgiveness, and some won’t. And that’s OK. In the different seasons the Lord has brought me through, He has always revealed that no matter what comes my way, I am to be like Him. Sometimes, to be like Him means forgiving those who aren’t sorry, because He was merciful and forgiving towards me when I was far from Him. As we begin to take on hurt and insults in this way, He changes the way we see people. Instead of someone who has wounded us, we see them through the eyes of Christ.
3. Forgiveness is for you…not just them.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15
To follow Christ, one would most likely point to the most obvious way we are supposed to live each day…with love for others. But love goes hand in hand with forgiveness. If we don’t forgive, we cannot love. In those moments when we find ourselves hurt or our pride wounded, we have an opportunity for growth. We can show the love of Christ, forgive, and allow Christ to work in their lives and our own…or we can harbor the bitterness and let the wound fester and grow. To me, I would rather my walk with Christ grow than watch my wounds grow. It is hard to see in those moments, but forgiveness if just as much for your benefit as it is for their benefit. Love them, let it all go, give it to Christ, and learn from the matter. They may never be someone you can trust or someone close to you, but you are free to love them in truth…not just fake attempts to try to show in your own strength that you are trying to love.
Forgiveness is a process. It is a daily dying to self.
So while I have been learning all of this and taking in the opportunities for growth, I am still a long way off. Forgiveness is a process. It is a daily dying to self. It takes humility when your selfishness tells you that you deserve to stand up for yourself. It takes love when hate wants to step in. And it takes Christ in you to daily fight the battle to love instead of hold on to the actions of others. Take time today to ask God what you might be holding on to and surrender it all at the feet of Jesus. He is the ultimate Judge, the One who sees everything and the only One who can bring healing to those deep and broken places. Take a deep breath, and let it go…