Everyone of us has wronged someone and needed forgiveness. We’ve made a mistake, hurt someone we care about, and now we hope and pray that they will freely and easily forgive our transgression against them. But what happens we were are the ones who need to do the forgiving? If you are like most… it is often difficult to forgive. It feels natural to dig in our heels and hold onto the pain we feel. We easily and naturally seem to know how to resent those who have done us wrong. We feed into hatred and eat it like it is our sole and only nourishment.
I know in my life… I’ve had to forgive a lot. There are people in my life who I love who have hurt me so deeply, they changed me forever, and not always in good ways. And while it was hard at times to let go of the pain family members inflicted on me, in the end it has been always possible. But sometimes, the ones who hurt us most are not our blood relatives. They are friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, fiances or husbands, wives or in-laws. I find it is with these people, I struggle to the most to forgive. I convince myself that these folks are not my blood, so I need to just cut my losses and move on. But it is not always so simple, especially when it is your spouse or an in-law. They are not going anywhere! I can’t always just rely on the safety of never having to see them again.
And what if the one in need of forgiveness is yourself? I know there have been many times in my own life where I made the wrong choice and screwed up! I’ve made a major mess of my life more than once. I’ve made decisions that led to painful and harsh consequences. I’ve carried my fair share of guilt and regret. And over the years, I’ve had to stop, take a look at my own baggage, forgive myself and move on. Sometimes it’s been easier for me to let others of the hook then it has been to show the same mercy to myself.
When I find myself in a situation where I need to forgive – even someone who is still wronging me and will not make amends or correct behavior – I look to Jesus. I think of Him and His amazing capacity to forgive, and I pray for the courage and strength to be just like Him. See Jesus Christ endured hatred and violence beyond what I have ever known. I simply cannot think of His final days on this earth and not apply His example to my life.
After enduring immeasurable amounts of pain and agony, Jesus pleads with his Father to forgive his enemies. The first words Jesus spoke after being nailed to the cross were a plea to Abba Father! “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Amazing! Jesus is asking for forgiveness for the men who judged and condemned Him to die and the soldiers who laughed at and mocked him, beat and tortured him, and who have just nailed him to the cross. I think Jesus is also pleading forgiveness for His Apostles and companions who deserted and denied Him and for the fair-weathered people of Jerusalem, who praised him one day, then days later set Barabbas free thereby sentencing Jesus to be crucified.
Jesus sees past all of his pain and suffering and asks his Father to forgive them because they are ignorant. Imagine this… He has been beaten, humiliated, denied and tortured. He is nailed to the cross and awaiting death. And it is at the moment of His greatest suffering that He demonstrates the ultimate example of loving-kindness when He asks His Father to forgive his enemies. This remarkable testimony to the power of forgiveness is captured in the bible. But it truly, truly became real to me when I watched the movie The Passion of the Christ. The movie opened my eyes. The words of the Bible came alive for me for this very first time as the image of Jesus up on that cross, bloody and bruised, waiting to die, yet speaking such loving words of mercy. I guess you say the light bulb finally went off, and I can now can understand how a wife can forgive a spouse who cheats on her. How it is impossible for marriages to be saved and relationships with family can be fully and completely restored.
Right up to His final hours on earth, Jesus spoke of forgiveness. Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12) Here Jesus is telling us to basically do unto others as we would have done to ourselves! We expect forgiveness, so we should also expect to freely give it.
Wikipedia says that “forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.” Studies conclude that those who are more willing to forgive are happier than those who hold resentments. The simple act of forgiveness can also improve your physical health according to University of Wisconsin study that found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses.
Possessing a spirit of unforgiveness leads to a pattern of sin. Evidences of an unforgiving heart are laid out for us in Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Bitterness will cause you to revisit past hurts. These people are miserable and seems to continue to pull people’s skeletons out of the closet. They never seem to understand the freedom that comes with forgiving others. Anger seeks every opportunity to show itself and can lead to rage and wrath. Carrying around the desire for revenge fills us with rage. An unforgiving spirit often leads to idle gossip and speaking ill of people who have hurt us. Some seem to take pleasure in speaking unkind words about those who have wronged them. Jesus warns us in Matthew 12:36. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
Do you have a unforgiving heart? Are you someone who possesses malice? Do you harbor ill will towards those who have wronged you? Have you ever said “I hope they get exactly what they deserve?” If so… I ask you to pray forgiveness for yourself. I pray you seek the wisdom to understand that one day you will stand in judgement for your actions. Don’t wait to understand what true mercy and forgiveness really means until it is too late for you. Seek Jesus today. When you grasp that He forgave us for our sinful ways enough to die on the cross for you and guarantee your way to eternal life, you will be forever changed. You will be free to show others the gifts of loving-kindness, mercy and forgiveness that Jesus bestowed to you!