I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. I know many people who struggle with it, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it! We read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ.
When we forgive others, we make a choice to humbly follow the example Christ set for us, and I believe God will use that step of faith to release healing in not only the person offering forgiveness and the person being forgiven, but also anyone else who has been affected by the broken relationship.
It’s no wonder we sometimes struggle with forgiveness – it is such a universal struggle and that is why songs are written about it…For those of you who are battling with events from the past, it might help to remember what Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-14,
“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Many people focus on verse 14 but notice what Paul says in verse 13: “Forgetting what is behind” is SO important before proceeding to verse 14 – We need to NOT allow our past to dictate our present or influence our future. It doesn’t mean we won’t have consequences from the past that we will have to deal with, but the past need NOT affect the choices we make today or determine what is yet to come. If you consider Paul’s past before he became a Christian, he crossed many lines in persecuting the church. This becomes very powerful because he put his transgressions behind him and by focusing on what lay ahead, he overcame his past to become a great pillar of the church whose influence through the Holy Spirit has guided Christians for thousands of years. Wow! He initially had to deal with a lot of unpleasantness because of what he had done previously, but he didn’t let that stop him – something you might want to share to encourage someone who may be struggling with their past. The example of Paul in Scripture reassures us that there are no lost causes and we can all have a new beginning. God forgives us when we ask, therefore we should be able to forgive ourselves and receive the peace and hope that comes with the grace He freely offers.
For those of us who have trouble forgiving others, I don’t believe you will ever be truly at peace until you do. It doesn’t even matter how the other person responds (if they are even around to respond – offering forgiveness is an intentional action that flows out of your heart – while it is hoped that it blesses the person you are forgiving – their positive response is not a requirement). Scripture is clear on God’s desire for us to forgive one another. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I believe God gives us a great gift by teaching us to forgive one another and it is also for our own benefit – a heart weighed down by the bitterness of being unforgiving can never experience true joy. I love this video by Matthew West called “Forgiveness” because it speaks eloquently to both sides of forgiveness. If you have something weighing you down, I hope listening to this song will help you to take the steps God may be calling you to take, so that restoration can occur through the power of Jesus Christ and despair and disappointment can be replaced with healing and love.
[image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]