By Marianne de Deugd, D. Min.
The Bible is very clear on the fact that we need to forgive those who have harmed us. Matthew 6:14-15 reminds us: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive man, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” And Paul in his letter to the Colossians says: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” (Col. 3:12-13). Jesus forgave the ones who put Him on the cross. What is good enough for Jesus should be good enough for us. He forgave you when you became a Christian!
It is crucial to recognize that forgiveness is not an overlooking of sin, a bypassing of liability or a winking at guilt. It is not a pardon that is easy to give and costs nothing. Forgiveness was purchased at the cost of Christ’s life. Forgiveness cost God His only Son.
The big question is not “do I need to forgive,” but “how” do I do it. Most Christians are convinced of the biblical admonition to forgive; many are confused as to how to put it into practice. The word “forgive” is a composite of two words, “for” and “give.” It literally means, “the foregoing of what could be given.” You choose to not give what the other really deserves.
When you say, “I forgive you,” you are making three promises:
- I will not bring this subject up again. Any conversation or questions about the issue need to be addressed before we say “I forgive you.” The purpose of forgiveness is closure. That cannot happen when we continue to bring it up.
- I will not talk to another about it. We will not call our best friend or our mother and rehash the offense over and over. It no longer appears on any prayer list.
- I will not dwell on it when it does come to mind (and it will). We cannot prohibit the issue from entering our thoughts, but we can prohibit it from staying there.
Forgiveness is instant; forgetting is a process. Anger is not immediately gone. But we can be angry and not let anger consume us. Emotions might still run high for a while. Over time the feelings of hurt and resentment will gradually be put to rest. In the beginning of our choice to forgive, we might have to remind ourselves every five minutes of the three promises. Remember, you are in control of your tongue; you can choose not to talk about an issue. And people are generally very good at changing their minds!
Forgiveness takes a great deal of courage. Don’t forget that you will have the help of the Holy Spirit to do this. You don’t have to do it alone. It’s always easier to hang on to our pain and disappointment, withdraw our love and try to make others suffer. Sometimes we don’t want to give up the role of victim. We get comfortable in our misery. But don’t forget that when we offer forgiveness to another person, we reap the greater benefit. It sets us free from the sins of resentment and bitterness. As children of God there really is no other option than living a lifestyle of forgiveness.
Read more on “FORGIVENESS” in Dr. Marianne deDeugd’s book
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