Forgiveness. Most of us like to be on the receiving end of forgiveness, but when it comes time for us to forgive someone else, we often struggle with granting it.
Maybe we feel like we are justified in holding on to unforgiveness toward someone because after all, they really hurt us. Or perhaps we feel like if we hold on to the hurt or offense, we can protect ourselves from getting injured again.
In reality, holding on to unforgiveness may seem like a good idea, but there are several great reasons to forgive instead. There are many Bible verses about forgiving people.
God Commands Christians to Forgive Others
It’s not easy forgiving people who hurt you. Likewise, forgiving people who aren’t sorry can be extremely difficult. But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then forgiving others isn’t optional. It’s a command.
The Lord’s Prayer says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Not forgiving someone is like requiring them to pay a debt. Jesus was instructing his disciples not to hold a debt over someone’s head – a debt that they really couldn’t pay back.
When someone seriously wounds you, does “I’m sorry; please forgive me” make it right? Sometimes those words can suffice, but other times there’s no way to pay back the debt of pain that’s been caused with just words.
Jesus told His followers, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” In order for us to be right with God through Jesus and be forgiven our own wrongdoings, we must be willing to forgive others.
Jesus didn’t say that if the offense or hurt was really bad we didn’t have to forgive.
Have you ever held unforgiveness toward a driver who cut you off? Did someone hurt you when you were young, but now that person is no longer living? You can still choose to forgive them even though they haven’t apologized or asked your forgiveness. You can let go of the offense and forgive from your heart.
Unforgiveness Hurts Us the Most
When we hold on to unforgiveness, we are the ones who suffer. Unforgiveness can easily turn into bitterness and resentment which spill into every area of our lives.
Do you know someone consumed by unforgiveness, unwilling to let go of past hurts? They usually aren’t much fun to be around because they are miserable inside.
God knows that harboring a grudge leads to a hard heart that can no longer feel. God wants us to enjoy life, not be consumed by offense or pain. Forgiveness frees us to experience life and love.
Many times while we are nursing our wounds, the one who hurt us is living life not giving us or our hurt a second thought. And just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we have to trust them again. Forgiveness is freely granted; trust is earned.
Christians are to be Like God
God forgives. It’s who He is and what He does. And He expects His people to be like Him. Romans says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
1 Peter says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
“Christian” means “Christ-like.” So Christians are expected to be like Christ; forgiving others is one way that we can be more like our Savior.
But what if they don’t deserve to be forgiven? Do any of us deserve to be forgiven?
In the Kingdom of God, there’s no such thing as forgiving people too easily or too often. In the book of Matthew, “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”
When Jesus came to earth, He brought the Kingdom of God with new standards and ways of living. For example, Peter thought forgiving the same person seven times was quite impressive. But it wasn’t impressive to Jesus.
When Jesus said Peter needed to forgive 77 times, He was basically saying that you forgive someone indefinitely. In this way, we can be like our Heavenly Father who is ready to forgive us every time we ask for it.
Forgiving isn’t a question of how often, if the other person is truly sorry, or if we feel they deserve it; it’s a question of obedience. In the book of Luke, Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Don’t worry about the other person and whether they will “get what’s coming” to them. It’s our job to forgive and leave the rest up to God. We only need to be concerned about what God is asking us to do.
Sometimes our friends or family may try to discourage us from forgiving others or letting things go. In those cases, we need to remember what Peter said: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” It’s this simple: God says we should forgive, so we should forgive.
Jesus declared, “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
When Christians don’t do what Jesus says by forgiving others, their lives will be characterized by instability and trouble. But when believers choose to forgive as God commands, their lives will be strong like a house built on a rock; when “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
So why forgive? We need to forgive because God commands us to forgive others, because we want to be more like our Father, and because we want to enjoy lives free from bitterness and resentment.