One of the most frequent issues I deal with as a pastor is the issue of forgiveness. There is so much hurt among people and the tendency is to bottle it up in an unforgiving spirit. It would be easier to hold a grudge, but Scripture is clear we have an obligation to forgive…just as we have been forgiven.
Whenever I address this issue, I get push back from those who say they can’t get over what was done to them. I remind them that the Bible doesn’t say we must forget, but to forgive. There’s a huge difference. It doesn’t even say we should allow forgiveness to be an open door for continued abuse by someone. The goal is to free our hearts by letting go of the anger, bitterness, and frustration with the person who wronged you.
This is not only because God commanded it, but practically speaking, the emotions brought on by failing to forgive begin to control you and serve no purpose to repair the relationship or you. Holding onto the pain certainly doesn’t teach the other person a lesson or make them a better person. Of course, when the other person keeps causing new injury it makes it even tougher, but it doesn’t release us from an obligation to forgive.
Forgiveness brings much to a person’s life:
It frees you from the emotional weight of the pain. It doesn’t take the pain away, but it releases the hold those emotions continue to have on your heart. Holding bitterness too tightly causes a range of negative emotions and even causes physical stress to a person.
Gives an earthly picture of grace. Most of the time there is no earthly or rational reason to forgive. Forgiveness gives something that is mostly undeserved. What a picture of God’s grace!
Helps you sleep better at night. The emotional weight of an injury is often heavier than the actual injury and takes longer to heal. When a person forgives another, it feels as though pressure is released from one’s shoulders. Forgiving people have less stress and more joy, regardless of the pain in their life.
I know the subject of offering forgiveness causes some to cringe. It feels like a risk too big to take. When you forgive, it feels you are inviting further injury. Forgiveness can be abused.
I wonder if Christ ever feels likewise…
Whom do you need to forgive?
For additional thoughts on forgiveness, read: