Let’s be honest. Forgiving people is hard! There are times in all of our lives when someone says something to us or does behind our backs, that demeans our character or, betrays us in some manner; in some way.
Our blood starts boiling at this point. Words might be said, or actions taken, that once escaped can’t be taken back. I have experienced this many times in my life and I hate to say it I have been too, the one who must humble myself to ask for forgiveness.
When people forgive me I feel great because I can work on regaining the trust of the person that I wronged. So if we know how great it is for us to be forgiven, why is it so hard for us to forgive others? Why would we deny this great feeling of being forgiven to one of our brothers or sisters?
The answer is simple. When we’re in pain we tend to focus on it. Kind of like when we’re hungry and all we can do is remember the avocado toast we packed for lunch. When our needs aren’t getting met it’s very difficult to think about anything else, so it makes sense, then, that it can be extra difficult after a betrayal for us to recall when we ourselves were forgiven and how grateful we felt.
So should we try to forgive at all? And if so, how?
In the word of God in the Our Father prayer in the book of Matthew 6:9-13 verse 12 tells us to ask our Father in heaven to,
“forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In verse 14-15 of the same chapter Jesus tells the disciples,
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive you.”
This gives us something important to think about. Our heavenly Father will not forgive us unless we forgive others.
This should make it easier but friends as you know it doesn’t. But it does make it perfectly clear that if we seek forgiveness we must first make certain that we have forgiven everyone else and there is no bitterness in our hearts.
In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times, Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”
490 times is a lot to imagine especially if we find it so difficult to forgive any one thing once. But Jesus makes it perfectly clear that we are to keep on forgiving, but take note He doesn’t add forgetting. Yet often it’s our remembering that makes it that much harder to forgive.
When I look at this verse it seems impossible until I began to think about it differently. It is doubtful someone could sin against us that many times although it may feel even once or twice is already too much. But what if that four hundred and ninety times is how much WE have to keep forgiving the person? Now we can add in all the times we remember the hurt, the pain, and the betrayal and we can ask God to help us continually to forgive the person who hurt us… again, again, and again.
In the following verses Jesus tells a story about a king who forgives a debtor for not being able to repay his debt. In the end lets take a look at what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God:
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
In verse 35 Jesus tells the disciples,
“This is what my Father in heaven will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Tough. So our forgiveness or lack thereof comes with a large price. It may take time and work but this work is not our own. If we commit even our lack of forgiveness to the Lord He is faithful to help us with it and to use it for His glory.
In Genesis 50: 15-21 long after Josephs brothers had kidnapped him and sold him into slavery Joseph’s brothers were worried that Joseph would take revenge on them after their Fathers death.
“Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.”
Joseph said first of all that He isn’t God to place judgment on them and today this is something I rely on God to help me to do as well. Joseph also makes it clear that God had meant all of it for His good so that Joseph’s and his brothers lineage could carry on and they could become the 12 tribes of Israel.
So when you wonder whether you should forgive someone, first think of how much our Father in heaven has forgiven you. Second, remember that forgiveness comes with a price and that we are told to forgive freely as we have been forgiven by our Father in heaven. Lastly remember that God is a good God who always works things out for our good and that judgment is His alone to give. Also keep in mind that He is faithful to help us by the power of His Holy Spirit when we find it difficult to let go of the pain and resentment we feel.
“Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!” (Hebrews 4:15)
When it comes to forgiveness don’t go it alone. Take it up with God and let Him work forgiveness in your heart. When it comes to resenting a person for what they have done don’t just throw your hands up and stop trying. Bring it to God. You will find the help and rest that you need when you lay it all down at His feet and ask Him to take it up.
Father we ask that you help us to forgive those who have hurt us. The pain is in our hearts Lord but in your word you tell us to forgive our brothers and sisters as you have been merciful to forgive us. Lord I know this is going to take some time to get over but I am trusting in you to help us when it gets hard to let it go. Help us to let it go even if we have to come to you 490 times. Be patient with us. Help us to heal Lord. Restore our relationships and help us to forgive with all of our hearts freely as you have forgiven us. We thank you Lord for your mercy and grace. In Jesus name. Amen.