|Our mighty God puts a premium on forgiveness. Truth be told, it is one of the cornerstones to His kingdom plan since He values right relationships. When God extended forgiveness to us through Jesus Christ, it was meant to do double duty: to do a work in us so we can be reconciled with God and begin its work through us so we can be reconciled with others.
The forgiveness that has been lavished upon us is also the model by which we are to forgive. Forgiveness is a decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when they injured you. This kind of forgiveness cannot be dispensed through our own ability (the flesh). It is altogether supernatural (through the Spirit).
The desire and ability to forgive others begins with receiving God’s forgiveness for our own sin. As a follower of Christ, you may know intellectually that God forgave you for all of your sins, but do you truly believe it? The deceiver will remind you of your past and question, “Did He really forgive you for that?”
If this is a soundtrack playing through your mind, give it to the Lord. The Scriptures are clear: He is able to forgive you for any sin you have committed. Repent today of this sin and know it’s officially dealt with. Allow the Holy Spirit to heal and comfort you from the pain this sin has caused.
Once we feel the weight of our sin lifted and the joy of reconciliation with God, we are freed up to be reconciled with others. Just as God has forgiven our offenses (sins) against Him, He desires and requires us to forgive others of their offenses against us.
I wonder how many Christians would want God to forgive them the way they forgive others. Yet Matthew 6:12 reveals this is how we will be forgiven! If we refuse to forgive others, Jesus said the Father will refuse to forgive us. If God does not forgive us of our sins, our sins remain on us—a very dangerous condition to be in.
Let’s be honest: It’s consoling to nurse a grudge, isn’t it? It’s soothing to think of ways we can get even to make them pay for what they’ve done.
It’s been said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get hurt.” When we withhold forgiveness from someone, we hurt ourselves and our relationship with God. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:17-18).
“ … as far as it depends on you” indicates there are steps we can take. Forgiveness is a choice so we can choose to activate God’s power to forgive. But then there’s God’s part—the actual supernatural transformation of the heart and mind to completely and totally forgive. Nothing good dwells in our flesh, so the power to forgive someone who has hurt you is not going to come from you. It’s going to come from the Holy Spirit living in you.
Only by allowing the Lord to activate the fruit of His love in our lives can we truly walk in forgiveness. God’s supernatural love never fails, never fades and never comes to an end. It seeks not its own. It is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Here are three reasons why forgiving others is so important:
1) Forgiving others is being obedient to God. Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” There are no exceptions to this. There is no reasoning with God about this. There is no reason to pray about whether you should forgive that person. He commands it. We need to do it.
2) Forgiveness frees us from slavery to the past. Unforgiveness is like a chain around your soul. But it’s a chain you can break with the help of God. You can never move into the depth of relationship and enjoyment of Christ that’s possible and that He wants for you if you are chained to the past in unforgiveness.
3) It reflects Christ’s work in you. If you are a Christian, you are forgiven. You didn’t deserve it, you didn’t earn it and you couldn’t buy it. It was given to you free when you asked for it. If you’re a Christian, you are to be a living reflection of Jesus to the world around us. If you’re withholding forgiveness, that reflection is tarnished to the point where they can’t see an accurate image of Jesus.
Choosing to forgive increases our understanding of God, who, while we were yet sinners, forgave us. When we go through the process of forgiving others, we come to understand what God went through to forgive us; we come to understand more clearly the reason for the cross, the pain of the cross and the significance of Jesus’ words before the cross: “This is my body broken for you, this is the blood of the new covenant shed for you.”
Go forth and supernaturally forgive.
Rev. Terrance J. Rollerson is pastor of The Compass Covenant Church in St. Paul.