A friend of mine asked me a great question today, “How do I forgive someone who deeply hurt me?” I honestly fumbled around with my answer. I’m not sure there is a step by step approach, but here is what I wish I told her…
Let’s pretend later today you get gas and in the spur of the moment buy a super lotto ticket. As you walk back to your car you see a friend and he asks to borrow $20 for gas because he left his wallet at home. He promises to pay it back next week when he sees you. You give him the money of course and think nothing of it. A few weeks pass by and as your watching the news you see the numbers to the super lotto and you realize that you’ve never checked your ticket. You can’t believe your eyes, you have all six numbers, you’ve just won a jackpot of $10 million dollars. You’re overwhelmed with joy, you can’t believe it! Now, at this point in time, is it possible for you to remember the person who owes you $20 and still hasn’t paid you back? Are you going to call him and say, “Don’t forget you owe me $20?” No! That’s impossible, right?
Unforgiveness is a Spiritual Problem
When it comes to paying the debt of sin, what we owe to God, there is not enough money in all the world to pay it. Only the sinless sacrifice of God himself could pay it back. Forgiveness costs us nothing, because it already cost Christ everything. Our enormous debt was paid is full by Jesus Christ when he suffered and died on the cross for our sins and in our place. You and I owe God a great debt, but that debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ, and our debt has been forgiven.
What’s our problem? Why don’t we forgive? We haven’t fully received the gracious forgiveness offered by king Jesus. We’ve all been raised to believe we shouldn’t take anything from anybody. Everyone’s got to pull his own weight. You can do anything in this life if you just work hard enough at it and go for it. It’s the American way. But it’s not God’s way. God says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). You owe God a great debt that you can never pay back. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your debt has been paid in full. By faith, we must receive God’s forgiveness and at that moment, our slate is wiped clean, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
We must forgive others
Once we come to understand God’s forgiveness, once we embrace it and are overwhelmed by it, in love and obedience we must forgive others. Without God’s forgiveness we would have no hope whatsoever. But, when we learn to forgive others, so many of life’s difficulties get settled. If we can keep in perspective how much God forgave, and much it cost him to forgive, we will soon see that no sin against us can ever justify an unforgiving spirit. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Even as Jesus was suffering the agony of crucifixion he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms.
In light of the God’s forgiveness, we as followers of Christ should truly be the most forgiving people in the world. But, we often are not, are we? Why do we choose to hold grudges? Why is forgiveness so hard? For one, our reluctance to forgive others usually stems from us not truly understanding and receiving fully God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ. One of the proofs that you understand and have received the forgiveness of Jesus, is how you show forgiveness to others. Because forgiveness not shown is forgiveness not known. I think another reason we chose to withhold forgiveness is because some of us have been greatly sinned against. Many of us have gone through very painful circumstances and the idea of forgiving the offender seems almost impossible. I am not saying that forgiveness is easy, it is not. It is hard and painful work. And just because you are forgiven or offer someone forgiveness, it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences to our actions. We also have to exercise discernment and wisdom when we offer or receive forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t not require a relationship.
I am convinced that many Christians who suffer from stress, depression, discouragement, relationship problems, and all sorts of other hardships experience those things because of a refusal to forgive. Forgiveness from the heart truly does liberate both parties involved and it glorifies God in the process. It may seem humanly impossible to forgive someone who has deeply wounded you. But, it is more than possible for redeemed people, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive even the most serious offenses.