Forgiveness is one of the most Christ-like things you can do. If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive. If we have experienced God’s grace, we will want to pass it on to others. And remember, grace is undeserved favor.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others. Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. How should we forgive someone? The way Christ has forgiven you.
Forgiveness is different from the way the world operates. In this day of constant lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, the Bible’s command sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, we are to forgive him. Why forgive our enemies?
- Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation. If you return hurt for hurt, when does it end? You could end up even more hurt in the long run.
- It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways. It may even be possible for the relationship to change for the better.
- Even if your enemy never acknowledges their wrong, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness. It also means that you did what God asked of you.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:19-20
By giving your enemy a drink, we’re not excusing their behavior. We’re forgiving them, and loving them in spite of their sins—just as Christ did for us.
Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions. If you find it difficult to feel forgiving of those who have hurt you, try responding with kind actions. Pray for them, give them a helping hand. Send them a gift. Smile at them. Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings.
Forgiveness goes both ways.
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness: if we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don’t forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means. It is easy to ask God for forgiveness, but difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, “Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?”
Forgiveness does not keep track of offenses.
Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them—but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the “perfect” number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone.
Give the greatest gift of all this Christmas, the gift of forgiveness.