“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] – Mark 11:25-26 (NASB).
As the year begins and progresses, if there is one decision you have to take in advance, it is to walk in forgiveness. Mistakes will be made, offenses will come, but resolving to move on ahead of time will energize you to overcome the urge to fight back when these offenses come.
The condition of our heart is the key to our life in Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will search your heart and reveal areas that will block your relationship with Him.
3 Gifts of Forgiveness
The Bible talks about three gifts of forgiveness:
- The forgiveness God gives to us (1 John 1:9; Luke 7:47).
- The forgiveness we give to ourselves (Phil.3:13-14).
- The forgiveness we give to others (Luke 17:3-4).
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you” Colossians 3:13 (see also Ephesians 4:32).
These three gifts of forgiveness are important in our lives. We must understand God’s gift of forgiveness to us, through the shed blood of Jesus. But we must also learn to forgive ourselves – forgetting what is behind, looking away from our failures, mistakes and poor choices of the past – which simply means receiving God’s gift of forgiveness and agreeing with it.
Now we are obliged to forgive others.
If we refuse to forgive others, then unforgiveness will block the daily expression of God’s forgiveness in our lives and block our access to God’s blessings.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” – Matthew 6:14-15.
Stages of Unforgiveness
- Initial hurt– someone says or does something that wounds our hearts (Psalm 109:22).
- Resentment – if we don’t deal with it straight away, we begin to harbor resentment. Our hearts dwell on the hurt. We are filled with self-pity and a continuing anger against the person who hurt us (Colossians 3:8-10,12-14).
- Retaliation – we get back at that person, usually either by not speaking to them, or by slandering them to others (Romans 12:17-20).
- Bitterness – this is where we allow unforgiveness to defile our hearts (Hebrews 12:15; Ephesians 4:29-32).
Living One Day at a Time
Many Christians are either prisoners of the future (through worry) or prisoners of the past (through guilt and unforgiveness). God wants to set us free so that we can live each day with Him – a day at a time.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” – Matthew 6:34.
“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” Ephesians 4:26-27.
One simple principle in forgiveness is not to allow feelings of hurt and unforgiveness to enter a second day. Each evening we can get things right with God and with others.
A Continuing Debt
When Jesus died for you, he took the judgment you deserved. You now owe Him a massive debt which you have no ability to repay. But God doesn’t require you to repay it -except in one way: God has transferred this debt to Him onto others around us.
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…” Romans 13:8.
We are now indebted to everyone. The only way we repay this continuing debt is by forgiving one another. When we consider how great our debt is to the Lord, is this too big to ask? We now express our love to God by loving others. We cannot be close to God while harboring hatred and unforgiveness.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” – 1 John 4:20.
When we forgive others, we acknowledge several things:
- God’s love for us (Matt.18:21-35; Luke 6:36; John 13:34-35; Psalm 103:7-14).
- Our love for God (Luke 7:47; 1 John 4:20).
- Our trust in God’s justice (2 Thessalonians 1:3-7).
- Our faith in God’s plan for us (Romans 8:28).
- Our readiness to accept persecution (Matt.5:11-12).
- Our enemy is not people (Ephesians 6:12).
- Our secure position in Christ (Col.1:1-4).
If I forgive, will the hurt I feel go away?
Probably not immediately. But forgiveness has nothing to do with feelings. Forgiveness is a decision. Forgetting is a process. If we decide not to forgive, the hurt is like an open, festering wound, which is very difficult to heal. When we make the decision to forgive, the hurt is cleaned up, and the healing process is then quick.
One prayer believers should make from time to time is:
“LORD, please remind me if there is anyone I need to forgive in my past and move on, and also help me to forgive anyone who offends me in the future.”