God has called me to forgive. . .

Below is something I wrote a few months ago and I wasn’t sure if I would share it or not but I ran across it again today and felt maybe now’s the time to share. . . Forgiveness isn’t easy for anyone and it has been an especially difficult rode for me to walk. But thru reading other blogs and finding comfort knowing there are others going thru similar situations as me, I thought i might share this in case God can use what I’ve been learning from what I’ve been thru to bring comfort to someone else.

 

God Has Called Me To Forgive

Once in a while God will be dealing with me on an issue that I feel him leading me to share. Maybe I am the only one that thought I had forgiveness figured out only to be learning now that I wasn’t even close. But just maybe, there’s one or two more out there that God needs to reach with this message so here goes…

I want to start by quoting some scriptures that most of us are probably familiar with and probably use all the time when we “forgive” others, but have we really took the time to let the words sink in and understand what they call us to do in order to truly forgive?

Some of these are a little long but I feel it’s important to read every word.

Matthew 5:44-45

“But I tell you, love those who hate you. (Respect and give thanks for those who say bad things to you. Do good to those who hate you.) Pray for those who do bad things to you and make it hard for you. Then you may be the sons of your Father Who is in Heaven. His sun shines on bad people and on good people. He sends rain on those who are right with God and on those who are not right with God.”

Mark 11:25

“When you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also.”

Matthew 6:14-15

“If you forgive people their sins, your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also. If you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Romans 12:20

“If the one who hates you in hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink.

Luke 6:35-38

“But love those who hate you. Do good to them. Let them use your things and do not expect something back. Your reward will be much. You will be the children of the Most High. He is kind to those who are not thankful and to those who are full of sin. You must have loving-kindness just as your Father has loving-kindness. Do not say what is wrong in other people’s lives. Then other people will not say what is wrong in your life. Do not say someone is guilty. Then other people will not say you are guilty. Forgive other people and other people will forgive you. Give, and it will be given to you. You will have more than enough. It can be pushed down and shaken together and it will still run over as it is given to you. The way you give to others is the way you will receive in return.”

Proverbs 20:22

“Do not say, ‘I will punish wrongdoing.’ Wait on the Lord, and He will take care of it.

Psalm 103:12-14

“He has taken our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The Lord has loving-pity on those who fear Him, as a father has loving-pity on his children. For He knows what we are made of. He remembers that we are dust.”

Matthew 18:21-22

“Then Peter came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven!’”

**Matthew 18:15-20 deals with how to handle a situation with someone who has sinned against you in order to attempt to set things straight and to make sure you are in God’s will on the situation.

And last but not least, we all know the Lords supper, but I want to focus in on the line dealing with forgiveness:

Matthew 6:9-13

“. . . Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. . .”

 

I’m not here to point any fingers at anyone but myself. So I will keep this about me. I have people in my life who have hurt me deeply. This wasn’t a onetime incident but a situation where I have been hurt over and over for years. I finally came to a place where I realized the relationship was very unhealthy and destructive. I had tried everything I knew to do to try to “fix” the relationship and it always blew up in my face. Through counseling a while back I was at least able to realize that it wasn’t my job to “fix” it and to only worry about “my side” of the issues. Which I feel I have done to the best of my ability while trying to learn to set healthy boundaries with “the other side”. I asked God to forgive me of my wrongdoings in the situation and I said I forgave them. I felt that I had. I no longer felt angry with them on a daily basis (although there were still moments of anger that I had to deal with). This went on for several years until more happened that lead me to feel stricter boundaries needed to be set. I felt the need to go through forgiving them again and asking for forgiveness. So I did. So that took care of that. . . or did it?

I said I forgave them. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t wish them any ill will and perfectly happy to live my life and they continue to live theirs happily as long as they left me out of it. I must insert here, that there is a time for strict boundaries and sometimes that boundary is to no longer have interaction with the other party. Because of the seriousness of the issues, I do believe this situation calls for just such a boundary. However, on the totally separate issue of Forgiveness where did I really stand? Have I really forgiven as God has called me to forgive? If forgiveness was as easy and saying the words, “I forgive you” then why the need for blood sacrifice in the Old Testament and why did God have to sacrifice his only son in order for us to receive forgiveness?

I have to admit, I have been very happy to let the process of forgiveness be that easy but truth is, it’s not. I want to try to answer the What, Why, When, & How of Forgiveness.

What is Forgiveness?

I want to start with the definition of “Forgive” (taken from Websters online dictionary)

1) a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>

b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>

 

2) : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one’s enemies>

 

I was excited to see how closely Websters definition was to the Biblical definition. I believe the best verse to bring a simple relationship between Websters definition and the Biblical definition is in:

Proverbs 20:22

“Do not say, ‘I will punish wrongdoing.’ Wait on the Lord, and He will take care of it.

Forgiveness is when we are able to realize that the one we are forgiving didn’t break our laws but God’s laws. What that person did may have caused us hurt but their sin was against God. When we forgive, we “give up our claim to feel resentful or our right to punish, and we allow the Lord to take care of it.”

I need to reemphasize here that if you choose to set boundaries with this person after forgiving them it is likely they will accuse you of not truly forgiving them because you are “punishing” them by putting up the boundary. That is a lie of the enemy and a manipulation tactic. Again, there are numerous places in the Bible where God advises and even sets examples of healthy boundaries, a topic I hope to write more about at a later time. Forgiveness and boundaries go hand in hand but I am attempting to tackle one at a time.

Once we truly grasp that the sin was against God and not us, it allows us to look at the whole process a little more clearly and we are able to begin to “Let Go & Let God”.

Why give Forgiveness?

After what we just learned, the most obvious reason would be because the sin wasn’t against us to begin with. But there is another answer to that question.

If you want forgiveness from God and others you have wronged, then you must forgive. There are promises in God’s Word that have no “conditions”, such as God’s promise to send His Son to die for us. The fulfillment of that promise, thank goodness, did not depend on a condition needing to be met by any human. The forgiveness provided by the cross is free to anyone if (there’s the condition) we also forgive others. Christ will freely come into our lives and save us with no condition (other than us asking Him), but to receive daily forgiveness, which we all need, we must be willing to forgive others. I may be pushing some buttons with this one. I for one always thought the only condition to me being forgiven for me to ask for it. However, when we carefully read scriptures we see receiving forgiveness has the condition of giving forgiveness.

Starting with the Lord’s Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-13

“. . . Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. . .”

Mark 11:25

“When you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also.”

Matthew 6:14-15

“If you forgive people their sins, your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also. If you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I would love to go on believing that I’m forgiven when I ask without worrying about whether I have forgiven others or not. But the God has clearly stated in His Word that “. . . he forgives as we forgive. . .”; . . . forgive him. Then your Father will forgive. . .”; & “If you forgive. . . your Father will forgive”. We also are told what happens, in Matthew 6:15, when we don’t forgive, “If you do not forgive. . . your Father will not forgive. . .”.

We also see the condition of being forgiven by others we have wronged in

Matthew 6:37-38

“Do not say what is wrong in other people’s lives. Then other people will not say what is wrong in your life. Do not say someone is guilty. Then other people will not say you are guilty. Forgive other people and other people will forgive you. Give, and it will be given to you. You will have more than enough. It can be pushed down and shaken together and it will still run over as it is given to you. The way you give to others is the way you will receive in return.”

So to put it simple, we must forgive because:

1. The sin was against God’s laws, not ours

2. We must forgive if we want to be forgiven

 

When do we give forgiveness?

Mark 11:25

“When you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also.”

God said “if you have anything against anyone, forgive him.” I take that to mean anytime I have something against someone I am to forgive. I read on in that passage and nowhere did I find permission to not forgive if I didn’t feel like it or wasn’t ready to let go of my anger.

You may be wondering how many times must I forgive someone. I mean, surely God doesn’t expect us to continue to put up with someone doing us wrong, right? While again, this is where “healthy boundaries” will come into play, God said to Peter in:

Matthew 18:21-22

“Then Peter came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven!’”

Therefore, healthy boundaries should help to limit another’s ability to give us reason to forgive them, if such a reason does arise God has basically said, there is no limit to how many times we are to forgive. I have to admit this was not one of my favorite verses because I wanted an excuse to write someone off and not have to forgive them. They did me wrong one too many times and no longer deserve my forgiveness. However, seeing as how God forgiving me goes hand in hand with me forgiving others, I had to then see this verse a little differently.

Let’s say Peter wasn’t asking about how many times he should forgive others, but instead asked, “Father, how many times are you willing to forgive me?” If God placed a limit on how many times He were willing to forgive me, then I would spend eternity in Hell. Because I know I probably reached whatever limit He would’ve set years ago. I personally can live with forgiving others with no limit because my Father has been willing to do the same for me, and I know I don’t deserve it!

Now to the hardest question of them all. . .

How do we forgive?

This first verse is what got my attention and made me realize I had NOT forgiven, truly forgiven, hardly anyone. OUCH!

Matthew 5:44-45

“But I tell you, love those who hate you. (Respect and give thanks for those who say bad things to you. Do good to those who hate you.) Pray for those who do bad things to you and make it hard for you. Then you may be the sons of your Father Who is in Heaven. His sun shines on bad people and on good people. He sends rain on those who are right with God and on those who are not right with God.”

I had to ask myself, “How many people have I said I forgave and then thanked God for them, done good to them, or prayed for them”? Honestly, I could only think of 2 examples of when I had done those things and I’m not even sure I did it with the understanding that it was part of forgiving them. This verse and the following verses shows us that it is not enough to say we forgive them, let go of resentment, set boundaries, and move on. But we are to actively portray the love of Christ to them. Again, because of the need for healthy boundaries, there may be circumstances where all you can do is pray for them, and if that is the case then that is what we should be doing. One extreme example of a need for boundaries would be a physically abusive relationship. Of course you would set boundaries that would prohibit that person from being in your life to continue to abuse you, but we are still called to do them good, even if only by praying for them. I can’t pretend to know how hard it would be to pray for a physical abuser, but by drawing on God’s strength it is what we are called to do.

 

Romans 12:20

“If the one who hates you in hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink.

Luke 6:35-36

“But love those who hate you. Do good to them. Let them use your things and do not expect something back. Your reward will be much. You will be the children of the Most High. He is kind to those who are not thankful and to those who are full of sin. You must have loving-kindness just as your Father has loving-kindness.

The last verse I want to touch on is what happens when we forgive or are forgiven.

Psalm 103:12-14

“He has taken our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The Lord has loving-pity on those who fear Him, as a father has loving-pity on his children. For He knows what we are made of. He remembers that we are dust.”

Just as God takes our sin from us and wipes it from our history, so are we to do the same when we forgive someone. This is one that I am trying to implement in my forgiveness in my marriage. If we have truly forgiven then that grievance is no longer fair game to bring up in future arguments or discussions. That is a hard one for anyone but it must be part of forgiving. Something else about this verse made me think. In our relationships we come to expect certain things of each other. In marriage we expect our husbands to always act loving toward us, and wives to always show husbands respect. With our children we expect them to obey us, with friends we expect them to be there in the hard times. But when we choose to see our loved ones through the eyes of Christ then we must remember that everyone will fail us from time to time not because they are bad people who don’t love us but because “they are dust”. God is willing to put aside His expectations of us when we ask forgiveness because He knows we are only human and bound to fail from time to time. We must remember the same about those we love when they ask us for forgiveness or even if they don’t ask for forgiveness.

I believe that in reality Christ forgave us for everything we would ever do in that moment on the cross. I don’t know how else He could’ve went through with it if He hadn’t let go of the resentment He must have felt for having to be put in that position to save us from our own lack of obedience. Just as we are able to forgive our loved ones before they ever ask for it, or if they ever ask for it, but we don’t actually receive the forgiveness already given till we forgive those in our lives that we need to forgive.