How hard is it to forgive?
Well, if you have ever been wronged in any way, you know…it is VERY hard to forgive. Today, just a couple of days after Easter I sit and wonder about this. Deeply within my heart I know I have a hard time with forgiveness. I have struggled with it immensely. I have held grudges. I have rehearsed scenarios of vengeance in my head to get even with those who have offended me. I have spoken harsh words about those that I find hard to forgive. I have pretended they don’t even exist so I don’t have to deal with forgiving them. In the end, however, the Holy Spirit, in His limitless love and patience, has taught me that the right thing to do…the only thing to do is to forgive and let go. There is no other way.
Forgiveness is the way to freedom. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14-15 NIV:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Notice that Scripture does not stipulate anything regarding under which specific circumstances we should forgive others. The Word very plainly says we must forgive if we want to be forgiven. Refusing to forgive binds us to our own un-forgiveness regardless of the sin that was committed against us. No matter what the other person might have done to me, my job is to forgive if I want to be forgiven by God. It’s just that simple.
How many times should I forgive? Well…
Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
…even if it means forgiving those who are putting us to death:
Luke 23:33-34 NIV
When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus set the bar really high. And we are to follow His example.
The good news is that we are not left to our own devices to find it within our hearts to forgive. Prayer is our ally in the quest for forgiveness. It is an almost impossible thing to do alone. That’s why we don’t have to. Through constant prayer we will receive the necessary grace so we can extend it to others to finally break the cycle of hate and bitterness that lack of forgiveness creates. Praying to Our Heavenly Father for Him to teach us how to forgive over and over again will soften our hearts to forgiveness. Praying that we can abide in Jesus’ Words and follow His example will put us into the path to freedom from the bondage of grudges. Prayerfully confessing our own inability to forgive will bring about the cleansing that is necessary to take the first steps into that path. Through prayer we will be able to lift our burdens up to the heavens, receive His forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. As our cup overflows with His grace and mercy, we will be able to extend them both to those around us…even to those we find hard to forgive.