Jesus spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of forgiving others. He made it clear that forgiveness is to be a characteristic of his followers. So let’s explore what it means to forgive others, the benefits of forgiving and how to forgive.
What It Means To Forgive
“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. (Romans 12:19)
To forgive means to not seek revenge on the one who has hurt you. It means letting go of the anger we harbor inside us and allowing God to deal with him or her as he, in His perfect wisdom, sees fit.
It doesn’t mean excusing a wrong or denying that it ever happened. It means we don’t allow ourselves to be consumed with anger towards the one who has done something to us. Instead of cursing the people who has wrong us, we pray for them. Here are three verses that reflect the attitude of the forgiving heart:
“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (1 Peter 3:9)
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, ‘I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,’ says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you’. Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21)
“And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior” (Ephesians 4:26-27,31)
As the verses above tell us, anger gives Satan a foothold in our lives. Anger has a devastating effect on our relationship with God as well as with others. Over time we’ll take our anger out on those around us. It consumes us unless we deal with it.
Jesus passionately taught us to forgive others, to let go, to let him handle it. He wants us to be at peace and for that to happen anger must be replaced with forgiveness.
A few years ago Christianity Today featured a cover story entitled, “The Forgiveness Factor: Social Scientist discover the power of a Christian virtue” (January 10,2000). In it, they discussed how researchers have discovered the importance of forgiveness. What was most interesting was that they had come to the conclusion that the one who does the forgiving is the one who benefited the most.
How To Forgive
“Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
After Jesus taught the apostles about forgiveness (Luke 17:3-5) they said to him, “Give us more faith!” Forgiving is not easy. It takes the strength of God to truly be able to let go. It takes faith and much prayer to say to someone, “I will repay this evil with good. I will not hate you.”
“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus, who spoke these gentle words, has the power to heal the hurting soul. He can take your shattered life and piece it back together again.
Tips to help you forgive:
- Do not deny that you have been hurt. As we learned, forgiving is not denying.
- Make a decision to forgive others (Luke 17:3-5)
- Do not seek revenge or repay evil for evil. Let God handle it in his perfect way (1 Peter 3:9)
- Ask Jesus to help you release the anger inside you (Ephesians 4:26-27,31)
- Pray for a forgiving heart and read what the Bible says about the subject.
- Pray for those who have hurt you (Matthew 5:44)