Forgiveness is something we often don’t feel like doing. It’s hard to forgive someone who has hurt us. Yet, we know it’s the right thing to do. This reassuring article by Donna Hart, PhD, a counselor at Biblical Counseling Center, appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.
Forgiveness is powerful and transformative, and yet at the same time, can be complex and slippery. It is not something we feel like doing. It is something we do because it is the right thing to do; it is a decision and a promise we make to release a person by canceling the debt they have with us.
God Models Forgiveness
It is modeled after God’s forgiveness of us. Ephesians 4:32 says,
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.
We forgive by watching what God does and following His example.
It is difficult at best to follow the model God sets before us. We have all been in the place where we let the offenses of another stew resentfully in our minds, and that creates toxic hearts. We continually play the wrong in the background of our minds, letting it steal our peace, as we stay focused on ourselves.
Forgiveness is not intended primarily for our personal gain; it’s not about us. It is about God because it must always start with God.
Part of Our New Life in Christ
Forgiveness flows out of our relationship with God and is a crucial aspect of our new life in Christ. It is a natural daily token of our gratitude to God for our salvation and is the expected outcome of all Christ-followers who have been forgiven by Him.
Scripture makes it clear “…and forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 12, 14-15). It is less about our emotional peace and moving forward, and more about our relationship with God.
Choosing to forgive reflects our heart attitude toward God and the person who sinned against us. Since forgiveness flows from our relationship with God and reflects the condition of that relationship, we are called to forgive those who sin against us even before they request it or take responsibility for what they have done.
Mark 11:25 says,
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.
2 Parts to Forgiveness
There are two parts to forgiveness: attitudinal and transactional.
We are to wrestle before God in prayer with the “attitude” of sin in our hearts that harbors bitterness and resentment before we “transact” forgiveness with another person. Attitudinal forgiveness paves the way for transactional forgiveness and gets the heart ready to fight the temptation to bitterly rehash a person’s sin against us.
Aiming for a forgiving attitude means working to forgive those who have sinned against us, preparing our hearts to offer mercy to the offender if and when asked, and being ready to forgive, even if reconciliation does not happen at that time.
Take some time to think about how your heart responds to the thought of knowing that forgiving others is to be modeled after God’s forgiveness.
What is the purpose of God’s forgiveness? Why does God forgive? Think through the implications and risks to your heart if you wait to “feel ready” to forgive someone.